LAS VEGAS — Jimmer Fredette received the pass behind the 3-point arc and faced up to San Diego State’s Billy White. Fredette spun to his right, a move he had tormented opponents with all season. Only this time, it didn’t end with a spectacular layup or fadeaway jumper. White stole the ball, ran down the court and finished with an emphatic alley-oop dunk that raised the decibel level at the Thomas & Mack Center 1,000 points.
It was that kind of night for SDSU.
White had a monster game with 21 points, 12 rebounds and five steals and provided solid defense on Fredette as the Aztecs beat BYU 72-54 to win their second-straight Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship.
“Billy played like a monster for us,” senior point guard D.J. Gay said. “That’s Billy White for you. You can always count on him on the defensive end and he stepped up big on the offensive end for us today. Before they game we were talking, and he said ‘I don’t care how many points I score today, all I want to do is stop Fredette.’”
Saturday’s title game was supposed to be a back-and-forth, intense heavyweight bout. It was the first time that two Top-10 teams squared off against each other in the MWC Tournament, and the third time SDSU and BYU faced off this season. Having lost both times prior to the Cougars, the Aztecs were determined not to do so a third time.
“I can’t tell you that those two losses weren’t on our mind, because (they) definitely (were),” Gay said. “It was another thing that we could use as motivation on our end.”
The Aztecs started the game strong. With BYU up 6-5, Chase Tapley hit a three to give SDSU a two-point lead. That started a 7-0 run to put SDSU up by six.
“You could tell they were excited, ready to come out and play,” Fredette said. “(White) was very energized right from the very beginning with offensive rebounds, playing good defense, just doing things to help his team win.”
After BYU’s Noah Hartsock hit a jumper to tie the game at 12, the Aztecs used tenacious defense to outscore the Cougars 14-3 in a four-minute span and go up by 11 with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Without BYU’s suspended forward Brandon Davies clogging up the lane in the Cougars’ 2-3 zone, SDSU was able to score inside at will. The Aztecs scored 24 points in the paint in the first half and went into the locker room with a 43-31 lead.
“It was a big factor,” White said of Davies’ absence. “He’s a key player on that team, too. We took advantage of that and crashed the boards, just played San Diego State basketball.”
The second half featured more SDSU domination. In the two previous games against BYU this season, SDSU’s biggest lead was only four points. On Saturday, however, the Aztecs opened up a 23-point lead on a Brian Carlwell free throw with 10:57 left in the game.
But that’s when Fredette, who quietly had a game-high 30 points on 10-25 shooting, put the Cougars on his back. The senior guard scored seven-straight points during a 15-2 BYU run that cut SDSU’s lead to 10 with just less than five minutes left in the game.
But the Aztecs countered with a spurt of their own, and when White hit a free throw off an and-one layup with 2:54 left to give SDSU a 15-point lead, the outcome was decided.
The Cougars’ 54-point performance was a season low for them.
“This is a wonderful feeling,” Fisher said. “It’s a well-deserved feeling for our kids. Thirty-two and two, back-to-back championships, and now the anticipation of the next tournament. So we’re excited. We’re proud to represent our league as the tournament champs. We look forward to the NCAA Tournament.”
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