No. 7 Aztecs rout No. 8 Cougars in MWC title game
Las Vegas • Losing a Mountain West Conference tournament championship game by 18 points was a painful experience for the No. 8 BYU Cougars on Saturday night, coming as it did in front of a rare pro-BYU crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center, where they are usually as despised as much as a shady blackjack dealer.
But the real damage could be felt Sunday, when they find out just how much the 72-54 loss to No. 7 San Diego State hurts them as the NCAA Tournament selection committee hands out seeds for the Big Dance in the annual 4 p.m. MDT selection show.
Two weeks ago, after pounding SDSU for the second time in the regular season, 80-67 on the Aztecs' home floor, thoughts of a No. 1 seed danced in the Cougars' heads.
Well, things have changed.
Combining some sizzling outside shooting early with their usual dominating presence inside, the Aztecs improved to 32-2 and made a case for a No. 1 seed for themselves with a convincing win over Brandon Davies-less BYU, snapping a four-game losing skid to the Cougars. Aside from a 6-5 early deficit, the Aztecs led the entire game, outscoring BYU 40-16 in the paint, 21-9 on second-chance points and 14-5 on fastbreak points.
They pushed the advantage to double figures in the first half, then pretty much put it away with a 14-4 run to open the second half.
"Give them credit," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "They played terrific tonight."
And the Cougars didn't, failing to overcome SDSU's hefty advantage inside with their trademark shotmaking.
BYU shot just 32.2 percent, including 6 of 24 from three-point range. That after riddling the Aztecs with 14 three-pointers two weeks ago in San Diego.
"I think the main thing is we just weren't shooting real well," said Jimmer Fredette, who earned tournament MVP honors despite a subpar shooting night. "They played good defense. They're long and athletic. They caused us problems. ... We just didn't make shots that we normally make to keep us in the game."
Fredette got 30 points to lead all scorers, but was just 10 of 25 from the field and 8 of 11 from the free-throw line. A telling sign that it wasn't Fredette's night like Friday when he dumped 52 points on New Mexico came when he missed a pair of free throws on the same trip to the line, maybe for the first time in his career.
The only other Cougar in double figures was Jackson Emery, with 11, as BYU was held to a season-low point total, nearly 30 points below its season average.
"We had stretches where we just didn't hit shots," Fredette said. "When we're not hitting shots and they're hitting shots, it is really tough to beat them."
After trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half, the Cougars put together a mild rally, bringing most of the sell-out crowd decked in blue to its feet.
They trimmed the deficit to 10, 62-52, with a 15-2 run. But after a steal, James Anderson's inside leaner wouldn't go. Two inside putbacks by Billy White (21 points) and Kawhi Leonard (20), and it was over.
"We ran into a very good team tonight," Rose said. "They just kind of wore us down. ... But there's a lot of fight in [BYU's] guys, and I am proud of them."
R After suffering two blowout losses to BYU in the regular season, San Diego State turns the tables in the MWC championship game, routing the Cougars 72-54.
Key Moment • A 14-4 run to open the second half gives the Aztecs enough breathing room to withstand a mild BYU rally.
Key Stat • After making 14 3-pointers in San Diego two weeks ago, the Cougars make just 6 of 24.
P NCAA Tournament Selection Show
Sunday, 4 p.m. TV • Ch. 2
O For more photos of the BYU-San Diego State game, visit
See more about comments here.