Life Without Jimmer

Oh, how quickly things can change. One moment Jimmer Fredette was lighting up Arizona for 49 points and setting a number of records in the process, and the very next day he began to feel ill. What was first believed to be "just" strep throat has turned out to be mono. More than two weeks later, Fredette has yet to play a full game and didn't even suit up for a couple of BYU's victories.

With Jimmer Fredette's particular case of mono, there is no risk of rupturing his spleen via a collision on the court. He just simply doesn't have his normal stamina. Fredette has, however, felt good enough to travel with the team to UTEP and now to Air Force, but whether he'll play against the Falcons remains to be seen.

Rose said on Monday that he wanted to practice Fredette on Tuesday to see how he felt. The media didn't have access to the team on Tuesday, so it's unknown how that went.

In any case, losing the team's starting point guard and leading scorer, as well as likely the best player in the Mountain West Conference, seems like it would be a death sentence. It seems even worse when considering the team's second-best player, Jackson Emery, has been dealing with a bruised heel at the same time.

Beating Division II Eastern New Mexico without Fredette was certainly no surprise. However, gutty victories over a very tough UNLV squad and a dangerous UTEP team on the road, all with little-to-no contributions from Fredette, have possibly revealed more about the character of this team than any previous victories.

Other players have stepped up and helped BYU win those two aforementioned games in tight contests that went down to the end. Since Fredette became ill, sophomores Noah Hartsock and Michael Loyd and true freshmen Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies all recorded or equaled career highs in points. Meanwhile, after taking on a diminished role off the bench following a tough stretch on the court, a revitalized Jonathan Tavernari turned up the scoring and earned himself MWC Co-Player of the Week honors.

"Well I think [Tavernari's] really made a great adjustment in his game, and found a real niche to how to help our team, which is exactly what he wanted to do when he came in my office a month ago," said Coach Rose, referring to Tavernari approaching him about giving his starting spot to someone else. "He said he wants to figure out a way to just help our team win. I think that he's a lot more patient offensively, I think he's defensively really concentrating on his assignments. He's playing multiple positions, which I think was a little bit of an adjustment for him, and right now he feels real comfortable. He's shooting the ball with a lot of confidence, and I think that he feels like he's found a way that he can really help our team."

Tavernari's reemergence came at the right time; Fredette played fewer minutes and was largely ineffective against UNLV, and didn't play at all against UTEP. So, the Cougars needed Tavernari to hit big shots and contribute in other ways last week en route to keeping their winning streak alive. His play as of late has been a pleasant surprise, though strong play from an established senior is not as big of a surprise as strong play from true freshmen.

Indeed, Haws and Davies were particularly impressive on the road against UTEP.

"It was terrific," said Rose. "You go on the road in a great environment like that in a competitive game, and those two guys get you 34 points. I think they were 10-for-15 from the field. Tyler got 11 rebounds. I mean, that can really help your team win, and one of the reasons this team is playing really well is ‘cause those two are really kind of stepping it up."

Rose said that playing without Fredette takes some adjustment, but added that his players are doing a good job of it.

"I think we've been able to push the ball really well. I think half court is kind of the issue. Coach Rice did a terrific job both those games [last week] of getting different looks. We were really ball-screening a lot for Jimmer, ‘cause Jimmer's really good on that ball screen, and we kind of adjusted to some other things, got the ball in different peoples' hands. I think we got the ball to Tyler really well. Obviously JT hit some big shots."


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