NCAA tournament 2011: Brigham Young survives ... barely
LAS VEGAS -- Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette said his Cougars are going to be just fine. He said they don't necessarily have to reinvent themselves in a week; they just have to make more shots.
"Same as always," Fredette said.
But if this is BYU's new normal -- a 64-58 victory over a Texas Christian team that had won one game since Jan. 12 -- then it is an ominous sign for a team that continues to search for ways to play without third-leading scorer Brandon Davies, who was suspended with two games left in the regular season because of an honor code violation
BYU (29-3) had beaten TCU (11-22) by an average of 19.5 points in two regular season games. But at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, the Cougars could not shake the Horned Frogs, who nearly earned the upset in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Before the suspension of Davies -- who sat toward the end of the bench Thursday in a dark shirt and tie -- BYU was well positioned to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now the only question is how far the Cougars will fall when they are seeded in the NCAAs.
Since losing Davies, who led the team in rebounding, BYU lost by 18 at home to New Mexico, beat lowly Wyoming and barely edged TCU. Friday's semifinal matchup with either Colorado State or New Mexico -- two teams squarely on the tournament bubble -- promises to be a stern test for a team that may be a shell of its former self.
"They are a much different team without Davies," TCU guard Greg Hill said.
Without Davies, even more of a scoring burden falls to talented guards Fredette, the nation's leading scorer who had 24 points Thursday, and Jackson Emery, who had nine points. Depth is also an issue; BYU got just two points from its bench Thursday. No reserve played more than nine minutes.
BYU Coach Dave Rose did not make one second-half substitution. His rationale was that, because TCU employed a zone and controlled tempo, he felt most comfortable with his starting five on the court. It was the first time in a long time that a team defended BYU with a zone.
Despite foul trouble and its own depth issues, TCU was in position to win the game if not for a handful of dropped or ill-conceived passes - mistakes that a more formidable team may have avoided. The Horned Frogs mishandled at least two interior passes and fouled up a two-on-one break with a poor acrobatic pass in traffic.
And still BYU watched a nine-point lead cut to two in the game's final minute after Hill scored seven points in 20 seconds. Davies and teammates sat on the bench interlocking arms in a game that few would have envisioned would have been close just a few weeks ago.
Seven of TCU's 11 made field goals in the first half were three-pointers. Point guard Hank Thorns sank a three-pointer to beat the shot clock to give TCU a 28-27 lead. Thorns picked up his third foul with two minutes to play in the half, but he remained on the floor.
Fredette displayed his effortless outside shooting touch early, making two of his four three-pointers. He also barreled to the basket and converted a layup despite contact. But there were plenty of missed shots by the Cougars, and far too much suspense for a team that had been surging just a couple weeks ago.
"Not a lot of times do we miss wide-open shots like this," Fredette said. "We're looking forward to tomorrow. This game is done."
| March 10, 2011; 6:23 PM ET
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