March 1, 2011
A Pit White-Out For Dairese: UNM will hold Senior Night Saturday in The Pit when the Lobos' men's team will honor one of its top players ever in senior guard Dairese Gary. The game vs. Air Force has been designed a "White-Out" game for Gary, the only UNM senior on the men's squad.
Lobo Men's Basketball -- On The Mountain West Road
Wednesday: Lobos at No. 3 Brigham Young
When/Where: 8 p.m. (MT), Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
On The Air: The Mtn. (TV); 770-AM KKOB / Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette has a fan in a Lobo uniform. That fan will become a stalker come Wednesday night in Brigham Young's Marriott Center.
This Lobo will try to attach himself to Fredette like a cloaking shadow. He will try to get into Fredette's hip pocket and maybe into Fredette's head. He will not be part of "Jimmer Mania" on this visit to the Cougar's den in Provo, Utah. He will be all enemy.
"I can just sit and watch him play and I don't watch a lot of people," said Lobo point guard Dairese Gary, who will be the lead Lobo in the pack that Coach Steve Alford will sic on the Cougars' top gun. "Fredette is an amazing player. His offensive game is ridiculous to me.
"I love to guard him, taking on the task to at least contain him. Hopefully, he doesn't score 50 on me and make me look too bad."
There probably isn't anything on the basketball court that will make Gary look bad. The Lobo senior is charging toward another All-Mountain West Conference First Team season. He is coming off back-to-back career scoring highs as a Lobo.
Gary and UNM contained Fredette to 32 points and seven assists in UNM's team-fueled 86-77 win over then-No. 9 BYU on Jan. 28 in The Pit. It was a game in which BYU had first-half chances to pull away from UNM, but the other BYU guns were off target.
A team of Lobos got 30 points off their bench and freshman Tony Snell had 16 second-half points as UNM pulled away to the win.
However, things change on Wednesday. It's the Marriott Center, not The Pit. BYU is now No. 3 in the nation, not No. 9, which means the MWC-leading Cougars are playing well -- as a team.
"They are just so good," said Alford, whose 18-11, 6-8 (MWC) Lobos are one of two teams in the nation to slap a loss on the 27-2 (13-1) Cougars. "They have a lot of complementary players, who do a great job for them.
"They have arguably the best player in the nation running the show. When the best player in the nation is a point guard, that's even more efficient for your team. This (BYU) team is very driven and they understand their cause.
The Cougars are top heavy in talent, not too deep off the bench. Fredette leads the nation in scoring at 27.3 and an outstanding game by this versatile Cougar can carry BYU to a win. They are better when they perform as a team as proven in their sweep of powerful San Diego State this season. Jackson Emery contributes 12.6 points and 2.8 steals per game. Brandon Davies, one of BYU's few inside threats, averages 11.1 points, but Davies no longer is on the team as he was dismissed for violating BYU's honor code. BYU got 18 points and nine boards at SDSU from Charles Abouo against SDSU and his playing time should go up vs. UNM.
"They have proved that they are a hard team to beat," said UNM`s Drew Gordon. "I think we'll stick to the game plan we had the first time and just step it up a little bit."
There are many Cougars to worry about, but Fredette's play -- and scoring -- is still an opposing team's first concern. The crafty Cougar can beat you from way out, at the free-throw line, or with creative penetrating moves.
Alford says one of the first priorities in dealing with Fredette is to keep him off the line: "He is really difficult to play against so when you give him free 15-footer with nobody guarding him, you are really asking for trouble. He has a great knack of getting to the line.
"So many defenses are geared to try and contain him. He is doing a good job of distributing the ball and his teammate are knocking down shots."
Said Gary of the variety of ways Fredette can burn a team: "It's kind of stressful. You are doing everything in your power and it's like his eyes are closed and it still goes in.
"It kind of makes me mad, but he's a great player and great players make plays like that."
With Fredette, you guard him tightly, because he has great range from the edge. If -- or when - he gets by you, you get help defense. That's when BYU's other weapons need to step up. Fredette is good at finding open teammates.
When those teammates hit their shots -- like at SDSU -- the Cougars are, well, the No. 3 team in the nation. When they brick, like they did in The Pit, the Cougars are vulnerable.
The Lobos have been getting some Fredette-like numbers from Gary lately. He tossed in 26 vs. UNLV and bombed TCU for 30. UNM also gets 12.5 points per game from post Drew Gordon. On the edge, Kendall Williams has an 11.0 average, and Phillip McDonald scores at a 10.6 clip.
The Lobos (6-8) still have a chance to finish in the No. 4 spot in the MWC race behind BYU (13-1), SDSU (12-2) and UNLV (10-5). But that finish would call for the Lobos to win at BYU and beat Air Force in The Pit, while Colorado State (8-6) stumbled.
There is a logjam in the MWC's middle as Utah is 6-8 and Air Force is 5-9. The Lobos could finish anywhere from fourth to seventh. BYU can clinch a tie for the league title and a No. 1 seed in the MWC tourney with a win over the Lobos.
The Lobos are looking for an upset at BYU and a strong finish vs. Air Force this Saturday in The Pit. UNM's needs that momentum to carry into the MWC tourney in Vegas. "We know the conference tournament is about our only hope for an NCAA bid," said Alford. "We just lost too many close games."