Round two

The first matchup between BYU and SDSU this season was billed as the biggest game in MWC history. With both teams still in the top 10, and the rematch being broadcast on national television via CBS, Saturday's game doesn't appear to be any smaller. The Cougars are expecting a physical showdown against a very athletic team in what appears to be another epic showdown.

"We're gonna get their best game again, if not better," said Brandon Davies. "I think we're both a lot better teams now."

Even after Jimmer Fredette scored 43 points against the Aztecs in Provo to give them what has been their only loss this late into the season – not to mention all the other big games he's had against them – SDSU fans have been saying via signs and chants for a while that they "want Jimmer."

"Well, they get their chance," said Fredette. "Now's their chance, and we're looking forward to going down and playing."

Since that first remarkable performance against SDSU in which he shot 58.3 percent from the field, as well as the other great shooting nights he had throughout January, Fredette has appeared more human. His shooting percentages have been down lately, and he is turning the ball over more.

For the Cougars to pull off the huge road victory, he'll almost certainly need to play at the top of his game like he did the first time around. However, he got little help in the scoring department the first time around, with only Davies scoring in double figures (14 points). Noah Hartsock was third with only six points.

If players such as Hartsock, Jackson Emery, Charles Abouo and Stephen Rogers are scoring this time around, there won't be as much pressure on Fredette to carry the load.

Still, this is the type of game that he thrives on, and no one can argue that he isn't up to carrying the load. Trying to stop him from going off again will be multiple Aztecs. The Cougars are anticipating SDSU utilizing forward Billy White in particular to guard Fredette.

"Yeah, I think they will, but I don't think he'll play me the whole game exclusively," said Fredette about White. "I think they'll switch it up a little bit, but I think he'll guard me. I don't know if he'll start on me or not, but they like to switch ball screens a lot with their length and athleticism, so I'm prepared for that and that's kind of my mindset."

"I think that they'll try a couple guys, but Billy will be one of them, ‘cause Billy actually did a pretty good job on him the second half," said Coach Rose.

Rose said he hopes that whoever guards Fredette will get worn out and struggle on the offensive end, but added that the Aztecs are deep team and have a lot of players that can guard.

Fredette is clearly the biggest threat to the Aztecs, and not just because of the game last month. He is the chief reason BYU has won in San Diego each of the past two seasons, having scored 33 points last year and 28 the year before that. The Aztecs have only lost one other home game in the past three seasons combined.

So if Fredette is the biggest threat to SDSU, what is the biggest threat to BYU? The Aztecs pose a number of problems for the Cougars.

"Very athletic, relentless rebounding team, and we've know that for years, but I think even more so this year with Kawhi [Leonard]," said Emery, describing what BYU is up against. "I think those guys are so good if they're anywhere within the rim, they're gonna get that rebound, so you gotta keep them pretty far from there."

"Just their athleticism, rebounding the basketball," said Fredette. "[We need to] just make sure that we do a good job of keeping them off the glass. That's always the biggest concern with them. They can score the ball, they can shoot, play defense, [they're] athletic, but they really go after and get those second shots, and that's a key."

Rose said he was pleased with how his team rebounded with passion against Colorado State last Wednesday, and added that his team will have to do that again.

Davies definitely understands the importance of that as well.

"I thought the game against Colorado State was physical, and I think this is gonna be a game just like that, if not even more physical," he said.

Davies said SDSU's bigs are tough because there isn't just one that they can focus on.

"They're very athletic, they know what they're doing. They're all great scorers."

"Their frontline controls games, and what we have to do is … not let them just dominate the glass," said Rose.

Another key to SDSU's success is point guard D.J. Gay. Last time around, the Cougars held him to just two points on 0-of-7 shooting from the field.

"I think the other guys are gonna get their points, especially Malcolm [Thomas] and Kawhi, but D.J.'s kind of the key," said Emery. "If he goes off, he hits some big shots, it's gonna be hard to beat them because the other guys are really talented."

Rose noted that while Gay is a big part of SDSU's success, they have a number of other players on the perimeter that can hurt the Cougars.

Ultimately, Rose said the key to surviving in such a hostile road environment will be keeping "the roof on" by avoiding going cold from the floor, and trying to get a few three-to-four-minute stretches where they hold the Aztecs scoreless.

"Well I think the most important thing is to score consistently, not have long droughts, ‘cause that just kind of feeds the frenzy of the opposing team."

Going on the road and trying to beat the No. 4 team in the country is no easy task, but the No. 7 Cougars know they are capable of beating the Aztecs.

"I know if we execute the game plan and do what we need to do together as a group, there's no doubt in my mind we'll come away with a win," said Davies.


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