The frustrating thing for Dave Rose must be that it didn't have to happen. His Cougars led by as many as 13 halfway through the second half. One thing is for sure though, Tony Snell will haunt his dreams for the rest of the season.
Despite finishing with an impressive line of 32 pts, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, Jimmer struggled from the floor, at times missing shots that are almost automatic for him and missing three free throws for perhaps the first time in his life. Forgive the hyperbole, but seriously, when was the last time that happened?
Fredette didn't have much help either. Emery had another cold night, going 2-7 from distance. Hartsock missed some shots underneath that were inexcusable. Davies didn't have the mojo and Collinsworth seemed to simply be asleep, missing several put backs and getting dominated on the defensive side.
All the credit in the world to the Lobos. As an unapologetic Cougar "homer," I threw a pillow across the room at one point during this game because Steve Alford's boys really showed what their true potential is. Their defense was stiff, especially on Fredette, and their offensive execution was something not usually seen from that young of a team.
Whether the Lobos won, or the Cougars gave the game away, I don't think I'll ever know definitively. Surely the Cougars had more than one chance to put this one in the fridge. Just as certain is that New Mexico made plays when they needed to, and BYU couldn't adjust at crunch time.
Most frustrating for Cougar fans is that this game was a chance to put an exclamation point on their decisive win over San Diego State earlier in the week. Instead, they let their emotions get the best of them and will have to wait until the Lobos visit Provo later this season to make up for it.
Am I hitting the panic button? Absolutely not. Jimmer is still Jimmer and even superhero's get tired sometimes. It will probably be at least another full year before he misses three free throws in the same game again. Jackson will get his shot back and Davies will continue his development. I stand by my prediction of a Mountain West Conference Championship. After all, one loss after 10 straight wins is by no means a reason to hit the panic button. Remember, Cougar fans, the Marriott is just as tough a place to play as the Pit. Just ask the Aztecs.
When all is said and done, it must be said that the MWC is one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country. Tougher than the Pac-10, ACC and the SEC. A perfect conference season, while possible for a team this talented, wasn't all that probable. In this case the "Any Given Saturday" rule applies. I will say this, I pity the fools who go into the Pit and let the Lobos smell blood in the water.
You won't get out of the Pit of Despair alive.