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March 11, 2011LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Jimmer Fredette was just too good and Dairese Gary was missed just too much.
Fredette put on an impressive offensive show Friday night, scoring 52 points as Brigham Young beat New Mexico 87-76 in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Fredette was literally unstoppable. If there are any doubts of who the national player of the year is for this season, they should have been eliminated with this game. He shot whenever he wanted and from all over the floor, hitting 22 of 37 shots. He had 33 points at halftime by hitting 14 of 20 shots in the first half.
The Lobos weren't playing poor defense. Fredette was shooting and moving so well on offense that no one could come close to stopping him. The Lobos used Gary for his strength, Tony Snell for his long reach and Jamal Fenton and Kendall Williams for their quickness. And none of it worked.
"He's very, very special,'' UNM coach Steve Alford said of Fredette. "Special players have special nights. We thought that even if he scored 50, they'd still be in the 70s and we'd be with them.''
"He's a great scorer, a great player,'' added Williams, who was forced to cover Fredette for most of the second half, a tough assignment for a freshman. "He makes intelligent plays. He just had a great game.''
While Fredette was rolling up his point totals, UNM lost its only senior two minutes into the second half. Gary, who was guarding Fredette and running the offense, went down with a knee injury and had to be helped off the court. He later returned to the bench with his left knee wrapped up.
"We don't know exactly what's wrong,'' Alford said. "I know he's in a lot of pain. I don't know if it is an ACL or what.''
A lot of UNM's hopes left the floor with Gary.
"We missed him a lot, obviously,'' admitted UNM's Drew Gordon. "He's been able to put us on his back through hard times this season.''
"It was tough,'' Williams agreed. "Jamal and I had to step up. I think we did a decent job.''
And most of the Lobos did do a good job. Gordon had 17 points and 15 rebounds, hitting 8 of 14 shots from the floor. Williams finished with 13 points and four rebounds and Fenton had 14 points but five turnovers. When Gary was injured, he had nine points and seven assists with just one turnover.
The missing link for New Mexico was junior Phillip McDonald. He was almost invisible. McDonald, who is second only to Gary in experience, didn't take a shot in the second half. In 32 minutes, McDonald had eight points, no rebounds, no assists and three turnovers.
A plus for New Mexico was A.J. Hardeman, who has been up and down. He had 11 points and five rebounds without a turnover.
"I was proud of our team,'' Alford said. "Fredette just put on a phenomenal performance. And when we lost Dairese, well he has been our horse. Our younger guys were thrown into a position they have not seen this year and on this stage against this team.''