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Top 10 Moments of the BYU Basketball Season

27 March 2011 Mike Rose 20 Comments

BYU Basketball at the Sweet Sixteen (BYU photo)

This time of year I feel envious of the football team.

They get to win their last game of the year about half of the time and march off into the sunset, riding a wave of momentum into the off-season and feeling great about a nice accomplishment to cap off their year.

In basketball, we always end the season with 15 guys hurting in the locker room after a tough loss, walking towards the bus, wondering, “Was the season a success?”  It can be hard to reconcile.

I remember that feeling after my last game against Xavier, a heartbreaking loss 77-79.  We had won the MWC title, 25 games, and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in 3 years, but was it a success?

It’s difficult for most basketball programs outside of the powerhouses to define proper expectations and success.  I live in Las Vegas, where fans’ expectations for UNLV range from the belief that they should still be a national contender, to the hope that they will compete for an NCAA bid.

Well, this year, I don’t think it’s right for BYU to have to wonder.  This season was an overwhelming success, and should be celebrated as the best in the history of the program.  I definitely am proud of what they did, and how they battled!

I feel bad that these guys had to struggle out of bed the morning after the Florida game, how the loss will sting for months to come as they replay certain plays in their mind over and over.

I feel bad that reckless columnists like Rick Reilly decided it was their job to try to humiliate the school, the Church, and Jimmer by ripping them based on one experience.  I think he ended up embarrassing himself instead, and losing a lot of credibility in the process.  He’s been bad ever since he left SI, to be honest.

Instead, I hope that the players and fans can think about some of these other things that I want to focus on, things I think should be remembered.  So this weekend, as I was dealing with the tough loss, I was also reflecting on my top 10 moments of the 2011 season. I’d like to hear your favorites as well, or different perspectives and memories on these mentioned.

I got a chance to see numbers four and two on this list live and they were, in the words of famous singer-songwriter TJ Fredette, “Amazing.”

10. January 11 at Utah (#8 BYU 104, Utah 79)
This game not only highlighted the widening gap between BYU and Utah basketball, it was also the game that really put Jimmer on the national radar as a player of the year candidate.  I remember watching SportsCenter afterward, and BYU got the first seven minutes of coverage on SportsCenter!  Obviously it was a slow night in the Big East, right?

When has that ever happened?

Never.

That was an awesome night. My favorite moment of that game was when Jimmer hit the half court shot at the buzzer before halftime and then turns, expressionless, and heads for the locker room.  Sick!

He had 47 points, starting a string of games where he would score 40 points in 3 out of 4 games.  Almost lost in the chaos was the fact that Jax broke the BYU steals record on that night, which in most years should be on the top 10 list by itself.

9. January 5 at Vegas (#16 BYU 89, #24 UNLV 77)
Curse is broken!

We finally win in Las Vegas after years of tough losses there.

Jackson was great in this game–probably his best offensive night ever–with 22 points on 6-9 shooting from 3’s.  Coach Rice put in a great game plan to handle their pressure defense. Jimmer answered the quote of Tre’von Willis saying he was the “supposed” best player in the league with 38 points of his own.

8. December 8 in Glens Falls, NY (#18 BYU 86, Vermont 58)
This game was specifically designed to get Jimmer a game close to home.  CBSCS called it the “Hometown game.”  I thought this was a really cool idea by the coaches and it was executed to perfection.  Jimmer showed off in front of friends and family in the Glens Falls Arena with 26 points and 5 assists.  This was the start of us realizing that he was a guy who could live up to high expectations and hype.  That must have been a fun yet nerve-wracking game for him, and he delivered.

7. December 11 in Salt Lake (#21 BYU 87, Arizona 65)
Yes, this is the team that beat Duke 95-77 Thursday in the sweet 16.  Yes, they are the PAC-10 champions.  Yes, we beat them by 22 on a neutral court.  Are they playing better now?  Maybe, but they weren’t bad back then either.

This was a great win over a very good team, and a big reason for our 3 seed and top RPI.  Any time you wonder how good this team really was, think of this game.  Brandon Davies had 11 points on 5-5 shooting and played great D on Derek Williams, the best forward in the country.

6. January 26 in Provo (#8 BYU 71, #4 San Diego State 58)
I heard students were camped out for days for this one, and Jimmy Balderson told me it was the best college basketball atmosphere he had ever seen.  This was a great game between two top 10 teams.  I thought the hype for the game might be too much for Jimmer.  I was wrong.  He scored 43 points on 14-24 shooting and scored the last 18 points of the first half.  I’m sure the sellout crowd was deafening during that run!

Brandon Davies had another really nice game defensively and added 14 points on 6-8 shooting.  Jimmermania reached its peak after this game with Kevin Durant tweets, national talk show and SportsCenter interviews, magazine articles, FaceBook status updates about Jimmer from everyone and their moms, etc.  Another highlight of this game was TJ Fredette performing his song in the pregame about his younger brother.

5. February 28, a #3 national ranking in the AP poll and coaches poll
It was fun to look at the polls that Monday morning after the win in San Diego and see BYU ahead of teams like Duke, Pitt, Texas, UNC, Kentucky, Syracuse, etc.  What a moment for the team.  People never would have expected the program to be able to get to that point, but the coaches and AD honestly always did.  Those guys are dreamers, and they got it done.

4. March 11 in Las Vegas, MWC tournament (#9 BYU 87, UNM 76)
After being beaten twice by this team, Jimmer comes out of the gate as motivated and focused as I have ever seen him and scores 52 points on 22-37 shooting from the field. 52 points!!!!!  He shot 1 free throw, people!!

I was sitting center court about 4 rows up, and I was going crazy.  That was the best performance I can ever remember in college basketball.  UNM has very good defenders, so it’s not like he did this against Montana State-Billings (no offense to those from the beautiful state of Montana).

Jimmer also broke Danny Ainge’s scoring record on a nice runner in the lane where he was fouled.  This win changed us from a likely 5-seed to a 3-seed, and set us up for our sweet 16 run.  It was a HUGE win.  Those 12-seeded teams are very dangerous in the first round; I much prefer Wofford at a 14.  Rick Reilly was not in attendance for that game and was obviously not watching on this night.

3. March 17 and 24- 2 weeks, 2 covers of Sports Illustrated for Jimmer
That was awesome.  It reiterates the kind of national interest that BYU has had all year.  This was clearly the most exposure the team has ever had–and maybe the school.  There was no Twitter in 1984.


2. February 26 at San Diego (#6 BYU 80, #5 SDSU 67)

This was probably our most complete and best game of the year.  We played so well as a team and really played great defensively.  This game was made better by the fact that it was the highest rated CBS game of the year.  The country got to see not only how good Jimmer is, but how good BYU is.

Hartsock and Abouo were fantastic.  This game is also a little bit painful to remember because it is a reminder that with Brandon, we were one of the best teams in the country.  Without him, we played really hard but we weren’t at the same level.  That’s why it was such a relief to still make the Sweet 16 by having a great shooting night in Denver.

1. March 19 in Denver, NCAA Tournament (#10 BYU 89, Gonzaga 67)
All the players stepped up and shot the ball great to lead us to our first sweet 16 in 30 years.  Jimmer was incredible, as usual, with 34 points but everyone else also played well in a big-time win for the program.  We went 14-28 from the 3-point line.  This was also the 32nd win of the year, a BYU record.  What an amazing night, and a win I will feel happy about for a long time.  Sweet 16!

That’s three wins now in two years in the NCAA tournament, after going a long time without any victories.  Great progress is being made.  Hopefully a starting lineup next winter of Matt Carlino, DeMarcus Harrison, Charles Abouo, Brandon Davies, and Noah Hartsock will keep this thing rolling once everyone is eligible.

I will miss the MWC but I think the WCC provides some new benefits and of course, ESPN coverage.

Go Cougs!

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20 Comments »

  • Spencer D. said:

    Great piece, Mike. Your uncle is staying with us, right? ;)

    For me, the best moment of the year was when Jimmer hit that 30-footer to tie the game against Florida. Sure, it was a fleeting moment, but it contained all the hope and excitement I could muster for a potential Final 4 berth.

    Seeing Jimmer hit that shot and following it with that stone cold look in his eye was incredible. What a shot and what a player.

    It’s sad to see the season end, and it’s sad to see Jimmer (and Jackson and, heck, Magnusson) go (my five-year-old cried when I told her Jimmer wouldn’t be playing for BYU anymore; I could totally relate). But this year’s Cougars left us with great memories that won’t soon fade.

    And for me, the moment that will always stand out, emblematic of the entire season — and, really, the amazing four-year run the kid from Glens Falls had — is Jimmer hitting that shot in New Orleans. I’ll freeze that moment in time (complete with the image of myself jumping around like crazy in my basement and repeating, “He’s a BAD man” — and my daughter asking in disbelief, “Why is daddy saying Jimmer is bad?”) and forget that the Cougs came up a little short that night. The result doesn’t matter — only that we had hope and fun and joy for a wonderful, unforgettable season. That’s enough for me.

  • ACougar said:

    What a memorable season! It’s important to remember all the successes along the way in addition to the NCAA tourney. Thanks for reminding me of some of the moments I had forgotten. I especically loved Jimmer’s hometown game.

  • NYCoug said:

    This will be a season I will remember for a long time. Sweet Sixteen is quite an accomplishment. I espeically liked with Tre’von got shut up. I hope we can keep the tourney wins coming after the move to the WCC. It’ll be an interesting year next year.

  • nate said:

    Not sure which of the 10th I would swap out because it is a great list. The one I would add was the Creighton game. Not because they played overwhelmingly well, but because the gutted out a true road win and I was able to see them in person. I’ll never forget how the 500 or so fans in the building all just gathered unplanned, almost as if it was magnetism and we all just hung out until the team came back out and spoke to the fans. My kids whom all made the 100 minute drive with me got to see Jimmer and Jax and crew in person and get high fives and get a taste of how special it is to be a Coug fan. So the year was a great success and a fond memory.

  • parthian said:

    Mike. Great article brotha. You seem to have covered it all. Ever think about coachin?

    Spencer D. It’s a toss-up between which look was better: the face after the half court shot vs. the utes…or the face after the bomb that tied the Florida game?? Stoic man.

  • oceanographer said:

    Mike,

    I agree with everything on your list.

    What a fantastic year.

  • Ralph J said:

    awesome piece Mike. I love your enthusiasm and positive tone. I’ve been really bummed out since the loss and appreciate your upbeat POV. It’s also exciting to think that even though we lose Jimmer and Jax, we still have a great nucleus and the addition of two great players for next season with Carlino and Harrison.

    With the added front court depth of a healthy Chris Collinsworth, and the two RM’s, and a seasoned/confident Stephen Rogers there’s no reason why BYU can’t repeat their Sweet Sixteen trip next season and even ramp it up a notch or two and make a Final Four run.

    Coach Rose has really raised the bar of expectation and set the standard high.

  • Bluedog said:

    Great article!! I jotted down my top 10 moments before I read Mike’s. While all of Mike’s were great i have 4 that were not on his list: BYU being announced as a three seed on ESPN, Jimmer being named to All America Teams and POY selections, winning a fourth MWC championship in the last 5 years, and the win against Wofferd (that’s where the run began.)

    Dave Rose is a great coach. I hope he stays at the Y. I will be looking forward to seeing where he takes the team in the future!

  • kiyoshige said:

    Love the top 10 list, Mike. Thanks, provides a nice exclamation point to the year.

    Why is it that I every time I think about this year I get a bit emotional?

    Ki

  • David said:

    I saw 9A, 4 and 2 in person. It took a bit of driving but well worth the trips. Nothing quite like seeing history made. What a season and good luck to Jimmer and Jax and their future playing careers.

    Highlights of games

    9A watching all the “classy” UNLV fans heading to the exits with 8 minutes left in the game

    4 Shutting “the show” down as every trick they tried accomplished nothing.

    2. 52 can you really say anything else.

    Thanks again for the memories

  • Cypress Ed said:

    Great list and great season.

    It’s amazing the the 47 point, 32 by half, Utah game doesn’t make the list. That tells you how great Jimmer’s and BYU season was.

    I was visiting Utah from Texas and took my daughter to that game and she’s been a huge Jimmer fan ever since.

  • J 2 said:

    Thanks for the article Mike! The whole season was memorable in one way or another. I really enjoy watching highlights again and looking at the crowd’s reaction to what they are seeing…. priceless.
    It is a magical season when the Yewt fans in my office can’t say anything (ANYTHING) negative to me, even with the suspension and the losses. They are fans of Jimmer as well… priceless.
    An overarching memory is the way that they won and the way they lost. They are great examples of how to act win or lose. Try to pass on the well wishes to your uncle when you can.

  • Suzanne said:

    I am proud to know you Michael! Great article!! I have to agree with your #1–the Gonzaga game was awesome–one that will certainly remain in mt memory. Loved reading your thoughts!

  • Ryan Lu said:

    Mike- Awesome article. You’re so wise. You’re like a miniature Buddha.

    I just wonder what you could have done with the kind of green light Jimmer had…

  • keith moore said:

    Nice Article! But to make it even better Jimmer scored 39 at UNLV. just to add one more dagger to trevon

  • Bryan said:

    That game at CSU when he had 43 was pretty impressive. He hit some unbelievable pressure 3’s and deep 3’s.

  • Rod said:

    Riley missed the entire point about Jimmer not playing defense. Play defense and you get:

    1 – tired
    2 – fouls called on you

    Rose was smart enough to figure that the probably point differential of having Jimmer play little / no defense versus all offense was in his favor and they got 32 wins and into the Sweet 16 in the process. Um, I’d say that Rose did it on purpose and it was successful.

    It’s true that Riley is not the only “expert” are saying that Jimmer won’t have much of a career in the NBA (see ESPN today). I live in Portland and the experts here picked Sam Bowie over Micheal Jordan and then (history repeating itself) Greg Oden over Kevin Durrant. So, I’m taking the “Jimmer won’t have a great NBA career” with a certain grain of salt (by the way, check out how some of these super smart sports people did on their brackets…).

    What I have noticed is that what will likely matter most is that Jimmer gets drafted to a team that is smart enough to leverage his game within their system – my guess is that guys with a talented post man (eg, Durrant) who know how to utilize a long range shooter to draw the defense away from the post will be interested in Jimmer. Hornacek for the Jazz was the wing option when the defenses collapsed on Malone in the post – he was the unsung hero in part of Malone’s success. When they collapsed too much on Malone, Hornacek was a threat from deep – if they didn’t collapse, then Malone took care of the post. If Jimmer gets drafted and utilized in this way, I think his chances in the NBA level are pretty good. Generally, Jimmer was credited with being quick and physical, not bad traits to have on the defensive side of the ball in the NBA. My 2 cents.

  • Shareen said:

    Cypress Ed: That Utah game DID make the list at #10. I still have 2 of those games on my DVR–52 points on NM and the Gonzaga game. Oh how I wish Kyle had made his second free-throw or even if we had gotten that last defensive rebound. I know Jimmer would have drove to the hoop aka Danny Ainge and got the bucket or the foul for the win. I knew overtime wasn’t going to be good. I can hardly wait for next season. Best of luck to Jimmer and Jax!! Thanks for the great article Mike!

  • CaseyA said:

    I’d like to add to the list a moment that I know was top ten for all involved. Jimmer, who has always utilized the student section at home by getting them involved, came over to the student section after the game. He climbed over the floor seats and walked along the front of the student section giving 5 to kids, shaking hands, kissing babies, getting votes … whatever it is he does. It was awesome to see those students respond to him and to see Jimmer give the students props.

  • Mike Rose said:

    Thanks guys for all the great comments. Hopefully the loss is less painful now that a week has passed, and we can look back at this season down the road with a lot of good memories. If this post helps accomplish that, then it served its purpose.

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