Denver Slowing down The Jimmer? It's possible.
Stopping him altogether? Well, as the sign in the stands put it, "Fredette about it."
Wofford used about every combination of defense imaginable Thursday night, but still got "Jimmered" by the nation's leading scorer. Jimmer Fredette dropped in 32 points to lead third-seeded Brigham Young to a 74-66 victory over the Terriers in the NCAA tournament.
Fredette went 10 for 25, made 12 trips to the free-throw line and added seven assists to help the Cougars win their school-record 31st game. Next, they'll play the winner of St. John's and Gonzaga in the Southeast region.
"He's a great player, great scorer," said Jamar Diggs, the Wofford guard who drew the short straw and covered Fredette much of the night. "One of best players I guarded all year."
The 14th-seeded Terriers (21-13) lost in the first round for the second straight year, but as they did in a four-point loss to Wisconsin in 2010, they gave BYU (31-4) quite a game. BYU played with a six- or eight-point lead for most of the second half and never turned it into the blowout that many of these 3 vs. 14 matchups can be.
But in the end, Wofford wound up like most of BYU's opponents this season — on the losing end, with nobody to match one of the country's most tenacious players bucket for bucket. Fredette's 32 points were 3½ more than his season average.
"He's really deceptive quick," Diggs said. "You think you're in front of him and he's by you. He's quick and unlimited range. Tough matchup."
While Fredette forced his share of shots and only went 2 for 9 from 3-point range, Wofford didn't live up to its billing, either. The eighth-best 3-point shooting team in the country went 4 for 19 from behind the arc. Outside of post man Noah Dahlman, who went 6 for 10 en route to 22 points, none of the key players in the Wofford lineup came close to making half their shots. Diggs got his 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting. Cameron Rundles went 1 for 9 from 3 and had 11 points.
"I thought we did do a great job on Fredette," Wofford coach Mike Young said. "That he'd be 10 of 25 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3, I'd have thought we would have won the game."
Taking turns covering Fredette were Diggs, Rundles and another guard, Brad Loesing. Occasionally, big man Tim Johnson would pop out and try to trap. But it's hard to deny this guy his shots. He'd jack 'em up from 2, 3, 4 feet behind the arc. His favorite play in the second half was driving left to the hoop, then switching to his right hand for a layup.
"They were forcing me left so I kept going left all the way to the basket," Fredette said. "I was able to get to the basket and get the lead up and give us a cushion."
He did that on two straight possessions to give BYU a 49-41 lead. The teams traded buckets for a bit, then Wofford went on a three-minute dry spell during which BYU extended the lead to 65-51.
Game over. Jimmer's a winner again.
"I didn't shoot the ball great but I was pleased with my effort and my ability to control the game and get my other teammates involved," he said.
Indeed, it wasn't Fredette, but Charles Abouo who did most of the damage in putting the game away. Abouo scored eight of his 10 points during the late stretch and gave the Cougars something they'll need if they're going to go far in the tournament — a compliment to Fredette now that BYU doesn't have its leading rebounder, Brandon Davies.
Davies, also the team's third-leading scorer at 11.1 a game, was suspended earlier this month for violating the school's honor code and BYU hasn't been quite the same since. Its only real highlight since Davies left came last week when Fredette scored 52 points in a win over New Mexico.
Other candidates to step in: Big men Logan Magnusson and Noah Hartsock, who each made two 3-pointers en route to 10 points apiece.
"You hate to walk out of here having given up four 3s to their two bigs, but we felt we had to with a player like Fredette," Young said.
Fredette's 52-point game, and the buzz that followed, helped cement his legend in the Rocky Mountain West. With March Madness here, he's looking to become an even bigger star.
On Thursday, there were signs and T-shirts all around the Pepsi Center spreading the word. "Fredette About It." ''I'm going to Jimmerland." And, of course, one that crossed out the words, "Romney/Jimmer 2012," and replaced them with "Jimmer/Romney 2012."
Jimmer for President?
Well, maybe not quite yet.
While BYU was trying to run the clock out on a game that had long been decided, Fredette jacked up a 30-foot air ball and was serenaded by boos — something he grew used to as he traveled the circuit, tearing up the Mountain West Conference during 2010-11.
Such is life as the best player on a front-running team.
"Last year was a euphoric atmosphere, guys jumping around," BYU coach Dave Rose said about the team that won 30 games and got eliminated in the second round. "Today, the guys were happy with the win and looking forward to our next challenge. This team is pretty businesslike. They are a team that understands that every night we expect to win."