Jimmer is BYU's shooting star
Published: Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.
NEW ORLEANS — Teams throughout the country have tried. Most have failed.
Who:No. 2 seed Florida Gators (28-7) vs. No. 3 seed BYU Cougars (32-4)
When: 7:27 p.m.
Where: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La.
Gainesville-area TV: TBS
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
How do you contain Jimmer Fredette? Say your prayers and hope Fredette has an off-shooting night? Head to a voodoo shop on Bourbon Street and cast a spell on the 6-foot-2, crafty BYU senior phenom guard?
Second-seed Florida will try something, anything to keep Fredette in check when it faces third-seed BYU in the Sweet 16 at New Orleans Arena.
“All strategy sounds great, but uniquely if you look at tapes or talk to opponents, a lot of people have tried a lot of things,” Florida associate coach Larry Shyatt said. “And maybe as much as we don't ever want to admit it, you've got to have your night where he is off balance or he does miss some shots because he is a tough shot maker.”
Fredette is the nation's leading scorer at 28.8 points per game. Most college players consider 1,000 points a nice career benchmark. Fredette has scored 1,002 points in his senior season.
“In every game that he's played, everybody's trying to stop him, everybody's trying to slow him down, and he still gets 33 a game. He still averages 28 a game, he still does it regardless,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I'm not comparing him to Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but I did make the comment a year ago that I thought Fredette had more of an impact in a college game than (former Kentucky guard) John Wall did. ... When you're dealing with a guy like that, there's a lot of times that you are at his mercy because he's got the ball in his hands.
“When you throw the ball to a great player in space, it's not like you're going to prevent the guy from getting a shot off. It's going to go up.”
Donovan said sophomore guard Kenny Boynton will get the first crack at guarding Fredette. But Donovan said the Gators plan to mix and match different defenses and players on Fredette during the course of the game.
Boynton at least has some familiarity guarding Fredette. Last March, when BYU knocked Florida out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a 99-92 double overtime win, Boynton defended Fredette. Fredette scored 37 points, though Boynton held him to 26 points in regulation. Fredette scored a combined 11 points in the two overtime periods, lifting the Cougars to the win.
“He's definitely more aggressive,” Boynton said. “Last year, he was scoring, but I think he's way more aggressive this year. He's expanded his range. He's shooting from very deep. And I think overall he's gotten better as a player.”
With Boynton hounding Fredette, he missed 13 shots. But Fredette also made 13, finishing 13-26 from the floor and 8-10 from the free-throw line. In addition, Fredette got Boynton into foul trouble, forcing Boynton to foul out during the first overtime.
Boynton said he's studied Fredette on film this week and watched him on TV throughout the season.
“Last year, I didn't really know too much,” Boynton said. “But this year I've seen him a lot. Basically I'm going to try to pick him up at halfcourt this year and make it tough for him, every shot he shoots. That's basically the main thing, make him take tough shots.”
Boynton isn't the only Florida perimeter player capable of defending Fredette. Freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather have proven their ability as above-average defenders. Wilbekin held Tennessee swingman Scotty Hopson in check down the stretch of a regular-season win against Tennessee. When Boynton went out with a sprained ankle against UCLA, Wilbekin contested shots down the stretch.
Asked about his approach if he guards Fredette tonight, Wilbekin said: “I'm just going to go in there and try to limit his easy baskets, stay down on his shot fakes and try to make him take tough shots with a hand in his face.”
It's easier said than done. Fredette has scored 20 or more points in 21 straight games. His last game under 20 points was 13 points on New Year's Day against Fresno Pacific (he played just 22 minutes). Fredette also has been held under 20 points by Creighton (13 points on Dec. 1) and Mississippi Valley State (16 points on Nov. 23).
“He's the most balanced perimeter player I've seen maybe since (Danny) Ainge when I coached in the league,” Shyatt said. “Great balance. He doesn't have a step-back (shot). He's got a left-right, right-to-left, he's got an interior game to draw fouls. Everybody has tried everything. Simply put, it's because of what he is. It's not really because of what he isn't. He's really put together a heckuva package offensively.”
In the Mountain West Conference, TCU had the best success against Fredette, holding him under his scoring average three times. Fredette had 23 points on 6-of-16 shooting at TCU, while scoring 24 points against TCU at home on 6-of-16 shooting. In the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament, Fredette scored 24 points against TCU on 7-of-21 shooting.
“I don't know if anyone has been able to slow Jimmer down,” TCU assistant coach Eric Haut said. “We may have been fortunate in that he just didn't hit as many shots.”
Haut said TCU's gameplan was to first stay with Fredette in transition because he's such an excellent perimeter player, capable of knocking down open shots on the fast break.
“We tried to do a good job picking him up in transition,” Haut said. “They run a lot of ball screening action with him so you probably have to stay with him at least a foot outside the NBA 3-point line.”
But Haut said it's easy to get caught up trying to stay with Fredette everywhere on the floor because of his deep shooting range.
“What happens is people will guard him as he catches it, and he'll dribble back out to 40 or 45 feet.,” Haut said. “Some teams will have guys go out and follow him. It's almost like ‘Jaws.' He gets you out in the deep end, and then he has so much space to work with, on the dribble, coming off screens.
“What we would do is we would take a step or two off the NBA 3-point line and just stay there. If he was gonna take 35-footers, we just lived with it. And he hit a few against us in our place.”
Haut said Fredette also is an underrated passer, capable of setting up his teammates as well as scoring baskets. In last season's matchup against Florida, Fredette had just three assists.
“It's going to take our whole team,” Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons said. “And the biggest thing is we can't get caught up guarding him because that's when the other guys come in and step up and hit some shots and make some plays. Going into the game we're not just worried about Jimmer, we're worried about their entire team, because we understand they have some good players.”
BYU coach Dave Rose said part of what makes Fredette a special player is his relentlessness.
“Players can get to a certain point, and then they're a little bit — maybe they might be satisfied or they're comfortable or they're in a position where they're going to take a different mindset toward the offensive approach,” Rose said. “I can vouch, in Jimmer's case, it has nothing to do with points. What it has to do is trying to get his team to win games.”
Shyatt said he's tried to call coaches that have faced Fredette this season, searching for little nuggets that could help UF's gameplan. Ultimately, though, Florida's success guarding Fredette could come down to part effort, part fate.
“He's just the kind of guy, you almost want to go in the stands and buy popcorn and watch him play,” Haut said. “I don't think you are every going to see the likes of him again in the college game for a long time.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G, Kenny Boynton, 6-2, So., 14.0 ppg, 2.6 apg
G, Erving Walker, 5-8, Jr., 14.7 ppg, 3.3 apg
F, Chandler Parsons, 6-10, Sr., 11.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
F, Alex Tyus, 6-8, Sr., 8.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg
C, Vernon Macklin, 6-10, Sr., 11.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F, Patric Young, 6-8, Fr., 3.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
G, Scottie Wilbekin, 6-2, Fr., 2.6 ppg, 1.7 apg
F, Erik Murphy, 6-10, So., 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg
BYU PROBABLE STARTERS
G, Jimmer Fredette, 6-2, Sr., 28.8 ppg, 4.3 apg
G, Jackson Emery, 6-3, Sr., 12.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg
F, Charles Abouo, 6-5, Jr., 7.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg
F, Kyle Collinsworth, 6-6, Fr., 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F, Noah Hartsock, 6-8, Jr., 8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg
F, Logan Magnusson, 6-6, Sr., 2.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg
C, James Anderson, 6-10, Jr., 1.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg
F, Stephen Rogers, 6-8, So., 4.0 ppg, 2.1 apg
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Pounding the post
Florida has a significant size advantage inside. Look for the Gators to feed the post early like they do in most games to try to get Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin said. "We'll post feed and drive the ball in the paint and kick out," Macklin said. "They're not that big up front but their guards have quick hands so we have to do a good job catching the ball inside."
2. Driving to the rim
BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette is an exceptional scorer, but if he has a weakness, it's on the defensive end. BYU senior guard Jackson Emery also lacks lateral quickness. Look for quicker Florida guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton to drive the ball to the basket and try to create offense by either scoring or passing in the lane. That should also set up second-chance scoring opportunities for Florida forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus.
3. Perimeter defense
Florida can't just worry about BYU senior phenom guard Jimmer Fredette lofting 3-pointers. Senior guard Jackson Emery is shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range and Charles Abouo is at 30 percent. As a team, BYU is shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. Florida must get out on the perimeter and contest shots.
1. Can Florida contain BYU senior phenom guard Jimmer Fredette?
2. How well can Florida defend the 3-point line?
3. Can Florida get Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin post touches and utilize its size advantage inside?
Go to Gatorsports.com after the game to read Kevin Brockway's answers.