Tre’Von Willis, who is “never one to publicly smack talk an opponent” according to one UNLV beat writer, came about as close as you can to calling out Jimmer Fredette prior to Wednesday’s matchup while keeping his comments fairly innocuous:
“Any chance I get,” Willis said when asked how much time he expects to be guarding Fredette. “The way we play defense, we switch. But I’ll try and guard him every chance I get.”
Does Willis take a lot personal pride in this matchup?
“Of course,” the 6-foot-4 senior from Fresno said. “You’ve got a preseason All-American and supposedly the best player in the conference on the other team so it’s going to be nothing but fun.”
“Like I said, he’s got all those accolades but he’s got to come in here and prove it,” Willis continued. “I take wonderful pride in my defense no matter whomever I’m guarding, not just him. I’m kind of prideful. I don’t like to let anyone to score on me.”
There’s a reason that Jimmer is “supposedly” the Mountain West’s best player.
And Willis found out the hard way tonight, as Fredette went for 39 points, six boards, and five assists on 12-25 shooting from the floor and 7-13 from three in BYU’s 89-77 whooping of UNLV. Those numbers get even more impressive when you consider that BYU was down 25-15 and Fredette was 1-7 from the floor with just three points at the 5:36 mark.
Willis looked like a genius for the first 14:24.
The rest of the way, Fredette looked every bit the part of an all-american and (dare I say it) an NBA player.
He would go on to score 36 points in just over 25 minutes. He did it on 11-18 shooting from the floor and 7-10 from three. He blew by defenders using his first step, and broke ankles with his crossover. If you played off of him, he’d bury a three in your face. If you played him tighter, he took a step back and buried another one. If you guarded him out there, he would put the ball on the floor and get to the rim or draw a foul. Or both. If he started to dribble by you and saw you turn your shoulders, he would pull up on a dime, burying what shall heretofore be known as “Jimmers”, pull up floaters in the 17-27 foot range.
And yes, 27 feet is well within his range.
When Jimmer gets on a roll like he was on tonight, there isn’t much that any opponent is going to be able to do, especially when Jackson Emery (22 points, 6-9 threes) and Brandon Davies (15 points, 10 boards) are also playing well.
If you are a UNLV fan, don’t be too depressed about this loss.
The Rebels played well before Jimmer went off. Their press was effective which led to buckets in transition, they were getting the ball inside, and they weren’t settling for jump shots. Willis struggled again, but Anthony Marshall had the best game of his young career, finishing with 26 points while playing terrific defense.
But after Fredette sparked a massive, 37-13 Cougar run, UNLV started rushing offensively and settled for too many threes. They stopped scoring as a result and were unable to get into their press. It took them until the two minute mark to finally refind that rhythm, and by then it was too little, too late.
For Fredette and BYU, this win proves a point.
They went into the Thomas & Mack Center — a place that this senior class had never beaten UNLV (the MWC tournament is also held there) — and ran UNLV out of the gym.
And while you cannot count on this kind of performance out of Fredette and Emery every night, on this night there are not many teams nationwide that could have beaten them.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.