Yes, ultimately the Jimmer Fredette Express could not be contained. His 34-point night was the difference, and warranting of the lead paragraph, but what a marginal victory it was. The 16th-ranked Cougars were supposed to win this game; there is no question about that. But look at the claw marks left behind:
- Buffalo's 55.9% shooting night was 15.9% better than BYU normally holds their opponents. The Bulls also sank half their threes, and the Cougs are usually prone to holding their foes to about 30 percent.
- Those 82 points drained are the most BYU have given up in a game all season, except for their lone loss to UCLA. And they played some stiff competition. Arizona, St. Mary's, Utah State, UTEP, Creighton — none of them hit higher than 73. The previous high was, 75, was registered by South Florida … and that game went to double-overtime.
- Many players had impressive nights, and for some it was the best they played in the halfcourt all year. Mitchell Watt led the team with 17 points (a season high), six rebounds, and three blocks. Senior guard Byron Mulkey turned up with 16 points and gave out eight assists for the first time since their first game against Navy. Freshman Javon McCrea also set a season mark with 15 points off the bench. And Zach Filzen had his ninth straight game with double-figure points, netting 12 on four threes.
But here's what killed 'em, which has been their downfall all year: turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
They had 20 on this night, and half were BYU steals. That was a downside of their own creation. The other factor (that BYU's freaking amazing at basketball) was a little beyond their control, but they did keep BYU's field goal percentage to a not-terrible level (48.4% and 40%). Well, for BYU's standards.
Stepping back, let's examine the basketball things that help Buffalo win: shooting the ball and defending. Those two skills seem rather fundamental to the sport. Pine poetically to your heart's desire about steals, 3-point accuracy, offensive rebounding, size, leadership, grit, moxie, and all those other criteria. But let's gloss over all those descriptive paragraphs and skip right to the chilling climax: they shoot and they defend. While not elite, they are complete.
Except for Kent State and possibly Akron, I implore you to find a team playing better right now. The media, as well as myself, picked Buffalo to finish last in the MAC East.