DENVER – The chant went up from the thousands of BYU fans inside the Pepsi Center with roughly 30 seconds remaining: “You Got Jimmered, You Got Jimmered.”
True enough, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs also got “Jacksoned, Noahed and Stephened,” among others. Jimmer Fredette poured in 34 points and his teammates matched his seven 3-pointers as the third-seeded Cougars crushed No. 11 Gonzaga 89-67 Saturday in front of 19,328 to advance to their first Sweet 16 in 30 seasons.
BYU (32-4) will face No. 2 Florida on Thursday in New Orleans. Gonzaga’s rollercoaster season ended with a disappointing loss. The Bulldogs finished 25-10.
“Believe it or not, I felt we defended him OK,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “There was one instance where we got caught scrambling around in help and he got a pretty good look, but he got 34 on 23 shots.
“The disappointing thing for me was we really didn’t want Jackson Emery to get going. We helped off him a couple times when we weren’t supposed to. That got him going. The complementary guys … we gave up 10 points to (reserve forward Stephen) Rogers in the first half. I thought that was a big part of it.”
Gonzaga kept Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer at 28.6 per game, in check early. He missed his first shot, a tough 10-footer over Demetri Goodson. He missed his first 3-point attempt.
Meanwhile, at the offensive end, Gonzaga pounded the ball inside, often to Elias Harris, and led 17-15 after Sam Dower’s layup.
Less than 10 seconds later, Fredette answered with the first of his seven 3s and BYU regained the lead. Another long Fredette 3 put BYU in front for good at 25-22. GU was within 40-36, but Fredette caught the ball on the wing and hit a fade-away 3, helping the Cougars to a 45-38 edge at half.
“As soon as Jimmer catches fire, everybody steps up,” Harris said. “They were hot. They played great, to a man.”
Emery, who had been in a shooting slump in the six games since forward Brandon Davies was suspended for violating BYU’s Honor Code, connected on three 3s and scored 16 points to go with four assists and three steals. Noah Hartsock, who played just two minutes after picking up two quick fouls in the first half, was 3 of 3 from distance and finished with 20 points. Stephen Rogers, scoreless in three of the last four games, had 10 points by intermission.
“Jimmer is going to demand so much attention because of the player he is,” Emery said. “The most important thing is his supporting cast hitting shots. I thought the rest of the guys did a tremendous job of being aggressive tonight.”
The Bulldogs, riding a 10-game winning streak and a wave of late-season improvement, looked nothing like the team that manhandled St. John’s on Thursday. GU put up 86 points against the Red Storm’s zone. In the first half against BYU, Harris hit 6 of 8 shots for 14 points, but the rest of the Zags were just 7 of 25. The Bulldogs made 1 of 7 from beyond the arc, but they shared the ball (11 assists), piled up nine offensive rebounds and used their size advantage to the free-throw line (11 of 13).
That didn’t continue in the second half, but BYU’s shooting exhibition did.
Guards Goodson, Steven Gray and Marquise Carter, who struggled through a scoreless night, committed four turnovers – they didn’t have one in the opening half – in the first 3:30 of the second half and BYU used an 11-2 run to build a 56-40 lead.
“We didn’t play as mentally dialed in as we had in the first half,” Gray said. “Those 3 or 4 turnovers there, they were able to capitalize on.”
Gray scored five quick points to help Gonzaga trim the deficit to eight with 12:18 remaining. Emery’s jumper started a 12-0 spurt, capped with 3s by Fredette and Hartsock, as BYU’s lead grew to 75-58.
“We played too soft and tentative,” Harris said. “We weren’t proactive. It wasn’t good at all. They were hitting 3s like crazy and we just like surrendered, gave up at the end of the game basically.”
Gonzaga relied heavily on its Big Three of Gray (18 points, seven assists), Harris (18 points, eight rebounds) and Robert Sacre (17 points, seven rebounds).
BYU finished 14 of 28 on 3-pointers and 52.5 percent from the field. The Cougars scored 20 points off Gonzaga’s 15 turnovers.
“It definitely shocked me,” Goodson said, referring to the vast improvement BYU showed after a 74-66 win over Wofford on Thursday. “If they shoot the ball like that, they’re going to be tough to beat.”