Gonzaga may try three different defenders Friday to try to slow Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette, the nation's top scorer.
DENVER — He’s college basketball’s cult figure, a guy whose first name has been turned into a verb. Now Gonzaga tries to avoid being turned into so much detritus along the NCAA-tournament trail by Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette.
Among the BYU followers in the stands are the signs celebrating the nation’s leading scorer at 28.6 points: “Jimmer … Party of 3,” and “Fredette About It.”
The 6-foot-2 senior is the obvious obstacle between the Zags and the Sweet 16. Friday in the Gonzaga locker room at the Pepsi Center, Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels marveled at the idea that Fredette could have scored 52 points in a Mountain West tournament semifinal against New Mexico — with a single free throw.
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“People say, ‘How good a pro will he be?’ ” Daniels mused. “I don’t know. I just know he’s a hell of a college player.”
Look for Gonzaga to try a couple of different defenders on Fredette: Demetri Goodson to start, maybe Marquise Carter, and a wild card in 6-6 sophomore Mike Hart. He averages only 4.5 minutes a game, but it may be testimony to the damage Fredette can do that the Zags would sacrifice offense at that spot for a decent job defending him.
“When he gets over half court, you pretty much have to be ready to go,” said Hart. “Anywhere he is on the court, he’s a scoring threat. You’ve got to be prepared for any sort of shot he might put up.”
Said Gonzaga guard Steven Gray, “He’s been hitting just ridiculous shots. Every time you watch him, you’re like, ‘He didn’t just shoot that.’ “
Fredette might pull up at 28 feet and cast a three, but he hurt Wofford on Thursday night by getting to the basket. Thus, the Zags will have to be alert to help, and they wouldn’t mind getting physical with him if he enters the lane.
“We’ve got to have three guys on him,” Daniels said.
But there’s no guarantee slowing Fredette ensures a victory. San Diego State could have lived with his 8-for-23 shooting in their game Feb. 26, but Fredette hit teammates for nine assists. The Cougars won by 13.
Fredette is candid about his abilities, saying, “I’m deceivingly athletic and deceivingly fast. People don’t realize that.”
Hart was asked about what sort of outcome against Fredette would satisfy him.
“If he gets 50 and we win,” he said, “I’ll be happy.”
• Robert Sacre, Gonzaga center, said he’s tired of the Zags being doubted this year, adding, “They haven’t really seen our true look. We showed them (Thursday) night how we can really play. And there’s more to come.”
• Brigham Young’s 31 victories is a school record. And Dave Rose, three-time MWC coach of the year, has a winning percentage of .782 at the school, best in its history.
• There isn’t much to separate the teams at the foul line. BYU shoots a robust .761, Gonzaga .760.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org