No. 23 New Mexico 76, No. 12 BYU 72
Even in a tight game, New Mexico point guard Dairese Gary was having fun.
Gary scored a career-high 25 points, including nine over the final 1:30, and always seemed to have the ball in his hands down the stretch as No. 23 New Mexico beat No. 12 Brigham Young 76-72 on Wednesday night to snap the Cougars' 15-game winning streak.
Afterward, Gary was asked if he was enjoying himself.
``How couldn't I?'' he replied. ``It's crunch time and we're going back and forth, scoring on each other. Every time down the floor, you know we've got to get a stop or we've got to get a score. That's a basketball player's dream.''
Roman Martinez had 12 points and reserve Curtis Dennis added 11 as the Lobos (19-3, 5-2 Mountain West) won their fifth straight and beat a ranked opponent for the fourth time this season. But Gary made the difference, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and making 12 of 17 free throws.
``Dairese Gary was terrific,'' BYU coach Dave Rose said. ``He is really hard to guard.''
It was only the second time the Lobos and Cougars were both ranked when facing each other. On Feb. 17, 1973, No. 18 New Mexico beat No. 20 BYU 76-66 in Provo, Utah.
The Lobos have defeated every Top 25 team they've faced this season, adding BYU (20-2, 5-1) to a list that includes California, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
``We're playing well. We have our swagger back,'' New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. ``We're doing some good things.''
It added up to a wild time at The Pit, where a sellout crowd of 14,586 was yelling at full volume all night.
``Man, it was ridiculous,'' Gary said. ``I loved it. It was so loud. ... It felt like the floor was rumbling.''
Gary was locked in an entertaining matchup against BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who had 27 points. Jonathan Tavernari scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half, but it wasn't enough for the Cougars, the first team in the nation to reach 20 wins.
In a contest between two of the Mountain West's top point guards, Fredette and Gary put on a show.
Fredette, the league's leading scorer with an average of 20.2 points per game, has battled mononucleosis over the past several weeks, but New Mexico's defense did more to slow him down than his illness. He shot 8 of 21 from the field but made all seven of his free throws with seven assists.
``He's a terrific talent,'' Alford said. ``I thought we at least made him work for it. He had a couple of easy ones but, you know, he makes easy ones. He had some big 3s late in the game, but I thought Dairese did a great job battling him.''
Martinez said afterward that Gary, a junior who started his 84th straight game, has been one of the Mountain West's most underrated players through his first three seasons.
But if this was his coming-out party, Gary certainly did his most important work down the stretch. He scored New Mexico's final seven points, and his two free throws with 35.2 seconds remaining put the Lobos ahead 73-67.
Fredette answered for BYU at the other end when he came off a screen and coolly hit a 3-pointer with 26.2 seconds to go, but Gary went 1 of 2 at the foul line with 25.8 seconds on the clock and then swished a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds left.
``It's a great feeling to get a win against a team like BYU,'' Gary said. ``They're a top team, at the top of our conference. It's a great win for me and for the team.''