PROVO — It was billed as "Jackson Emery Night" at the Marriott Center, and fittingly, Jackson Emery stole the show.
While he always seems to play in teammate Jimmer Fredette's shadow, Emery, BYU's all-time steals leader, stepped into the spotlight, connecting on five 3-pointers, and making 6 of 8 shots, as the No. 9 Cougars (18-1, 4-0) defeated TCU, 83-67, Tuesday night before a crowd of 16,170.
While Fredette scored a team-high 21 points, it wasn't one of his better outings, as he hit only 6 of 16 shots from the floor. The Horned Frogs (10-10, 1-4) threw every imaginable defense at Fredette, opening the door for Emery to contribute 17 points.
"Every coach that talks to me about my team, they really envy the fact that I've got Jackson Emery," said Dave Rose. "Jimmer's a great player and every team seems to have a great player. But it's that second guy that makes the first guy better. That's just the way it is. That's the way the game is played. With Jax hitting those 5-for-7 from the 3-point line, it probably changed the way that TCU wanted to guard Jimmer. The value that Jackson brings to this group, it's really intangible."
TCU coach Jim Christian was effusive in his praise for Emery.
"Jackson Emery is the most underrated player in the league, and he made some huge shots," he said. "To me, Emery was the key. He's a great player. I told (Rose) before the game if I could trade for anyone in the league, I'd want Jackson Emery. I think he plays the game the right way and makes up for a lot of other people's mistakes on the floor."
Prior to the game, Emery was honored as Rose presented him with a basketball commemorating the breaking of Danny Ainge's 30-year-old career steals record last week at Utah. He added two more steals Tuesday to give him 199 for his career. Ainge congratulated Emery via a taped message that was played on the big screen, and the crowd gave Emery a prolonged standing ovation.
"It was great. I had a lot of friends and family who came tonight as well as people from my high school and my community," Emery said. "It was great to have all of them here. That was a big reason why I came to BYU, is to play in front of family and friends. It's great to have that kind of accomplishment and that kind of support."
Still, Emery wasn't the only Cougar to give the team a lift against the Frogs.
"We've been doing that all year, really," Fredette said of his team's balanced scoring. "Every single game, just depending on how they guard me, we take what they give us. Tonight, they were double- and triple-teaming. We were finding open guys and they were making shots. We're always confident that these guys are going to make shots every night."
"We shared the ball well and got everybody involved," Rose said. "That's kind of what you want to have happen. You can't really script it. The guys played hard, executed our game plan … TCU did a terrific job of changing the double team. I really felt like the rest of the guys reacted really well."
Rose said before the game he was eager to see how his team would play after enjoying a bye last weekend. The Cougars took a 10-2 lead early on. "I'm really happy how we can out for the first (five to eight) minutes of the game after the layoff," Rose said.
Fredette was held scoreless through the first seven-plus minutes of the contest, then exploded for 10 consecutive points — including a pair of 3-pointers — to give BYU a 25-7 advantage at the midway point of the first half.
Emery gave the Cougars their biggest lead in the first half, at 41-21, on a 3-pointer. BYU was up 47-30 at halftime. The Cougars led by as many as 23 points in the second half.
A couple of times, the Frogs recorded 9-0 runs that kept them in the game. "TCU put a lot of runs on us," Rose said, "but we answered them."
Guard Ronnie Moss poured in a game-high 27 points for the Frogs. "Ronnie Moss had a great game. He's a terrific player," Rose said. "We're going to have to figure out a way to control him."
Next up for the Cougars is a road game Saturday against Colorado State.