A look ahead: Brigham Young and the dangerous Jimmer Fredetteby Javier Morales on Dec. 09, 2010, under Sports
A bevy of related links:
- Fredette’s triumphant return to his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y. (Albany Times Union)
- Sean Miller: “We would have lost this game last year” (WildAboutAZCats.com)
- Fiery Miller no comparison to last year (WildcatSportsReport.com)
- Miller critical of Wildcats despite victory (FoxSportsArizona.com)
- Steve Rivera’s in-game blog at TucsonCitizen.com
Arizona’s practices Thursday and Friday should be as intense as a Sean Miller scowl before the Wildcats play BYU at Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
While the Wildcats (8-1) will feel the tenacity of their head coach, who is not too happy with their overall performance Wednesday against Cal State-Fullerton, BYU (9-0) will fight through the potential fatigue of travel.
Also on Wednesday night, the Cougars experienced a feel-good story of star guard Jimmer Fredette returning home to Glens Falls, N.Y., and leading them to an 86-58 win over Vermont. Fredette scored 26 points and recorded five assists, which seems pedestrian to his McKale Center-record 49 points against the Wildcats last year in BYU’s 99-69 drubbing of Arizona.
In the last week, the Cougars have defeated Creighton on the road, beat Hawaii and former UA guard Zane Johnson at home, and routed Vermont across the country. They now face Arizona on Saturday (4 p.m. Tucson time), not at the Marriott Center in Provo, but in Salt Lake City.
The Cougars will catch an early flight out of Albany, N.Y., on Thursday morning with a short layover in Detroit. They will arrive at the Salt Lake Airport around 2:10 p.m., Tucson time, then bus back to Provo for a practice scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
“We’ve been together a week now, and we’ll be together another week,” junior Noah Hartsock is quoted as saying by KSL.com. “We just like each other. We’re just going to play off each other’s energy.”
Miller, in an indirect way Wednesday, referenced BYU and Fredette when talking about how veteran teams handle the grind of a 30-plus-game season. Fredette, a senior, is one of six seniors and juniors on BYU’s roster.
“The season grows, it picks on the weak minded,” said Miller, who has one senior (Jamelle Horne) and three juniors (Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson).
“The guys who can’t do it every day, they get worn down. It’s those teams that are older, that are veteran-tested and have been there in the winner circle, they can be there throughout, from Game 1 to 30. Right now, we’re still very much a work in progress of figuring out how hard and how long the season is.”
In addition to the potential arduous practices the next couple days, the Wildcats must take final exams. The grind ends with a significant test against Fredette and BYU on the road.
Fredette has been named to eight preseason All-America teams (AP, ESPN.com, Sporting News, SI.com/Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times, Athlon Sports, Dick Vitale and Blue Ribbon Magazine). A likely NBA first-round draft pick, Fredette is averaging 22.7 points, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season.
Arizona post player/power forward Derrick Williams is now forecast as a lottery pick, so BYU must contend with him similar to how the Wildcats must answer Fredette’s challenge. Likely scenario: The guard who plays the most minutes Saturday — Fogg, Lavender or Kevin Parrom — will be the one who defended Fredette the toughest.
Brandon Davies, a 6-9, 235-pound sophomore, will likely carry the load against Williams (6-9, 221). He has developed into a reliable low post presence over the six games before the rout of Vermont. During that stretch, he averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting .531 from the field and registering seven blocks. Davies has scored in double figures three times, and had a career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting at Creighton.
The tallest order for the Cats will be matching BYU’s will to win. Fredette has now played in 89 wins for the Cougars, No. 7 on BYU’s career charts. With 17:51 left in the first half against Vermont, Fredette made a layup to give him seven points on the night and pass Mark Bigelow for eighth place on the BYU all-time scoring list.
He now has 1,735 career points, just five behind Mekeli Wesley for seventh place.
“You keep putting him in situations where you aren’t sure how he is going to respond and he steps up,” BYU coach Dave Rose said of Fredette after his homecoming game against Vermont Wednesday.
Will the Wildcats respond favorably and step up when put in a difficult situation Saturday night?
No question Miller will be encouraging his team the next two days as he gives them tough love.
“The great news for us is we get to play BYU,” Miller said Wednesday before talking about his team’s shortcomings against Cal State-Fullerton.
Great news? Competitors are like that. Miller will discover over the next three days which of the Wildcats mirror him the most.