Like Batman and Robin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto or the Green Hornet and Kato, Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette is all the more unstoppable when sidekick Jackson Emery is on his game.
UNLV found that out the hard way Wednesday night.
Emery scored 22 points in support of Fredette’s 39 in the 15th-ranked Cougars’ 89-77 win over the 25th-ranked Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
"It feels great — just like when we finally won an NCAA Tournament game last year," Emery said after BYU (15-1) won a regular-season game at the Thomas & Mack for the first time in nine tries. "Jimmer and I are so comfortable together on the court. We look for each other. He found me open and all I had to do was knock down the shots."
Emery has been battling shin splits in his right leg for the past five weeks, sitting out most of BYU’s practices to save himself for games.
He managed to practice on consecutive days for the first time in weeks Monday and Tuesday and acknowledged that it helped his performance against UNLV (12-3).
"Like any shooter, if I have my rhythm, I’m more comfortable," said Emery, a senior guard who made 6 of 9 3-point tries. "I get my rhythm in practice, and after being able to practice the last two days, I definitely felt better out there."
BYU coach Dave Rose also noticed the difference.
"You watch him play and he looked like his old self," Rose said. "He seemed comfortable out there, and it was probably a matter of him getting his conditioning back."
Emery also unintentionally helped short-circuit UNLV’s momentum in the first half.
The Rebels were in control, leading 25-15, with 5:48 remaining when Emery got poked in his right eye and lost a contact lens.
Instead of making Emery come out of the game, the officials allowed him to replace the contact lens and Emery took his time.
Many in the crowd of 17,942 booed the delay, which amounted to an extended TV timeout for BYU.
When play resumed, UNLV appeared to have cooled off and Fredette began to heat up.
He had three points to that point but finished the half with 17 as the Cougars rallied for a 38-35 lead.
"I thought I had been subbed out, so I took my time," Emery said. "But then I heard the crowd booing, and I started to get nervous trying to put the contact back in."
"That delay definitely helped us," Rose said. "We weren’t playing a lot of guys, so the rest seemed to give us a lift."
The momentum swing carried over into the second half. Emery hit two big 3-pointers in the first 4½ minutes, contributing to a 14-3 spurt that put the Cougars up 52-38.
BYU would lead by as many as 21 points, 78-57 with 4:34 remaining.
"Maybe I should lose a contact more often," Emery said.
Contact sports reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.BYU 89, UNLV 77