PROVO — With five regular-season games remaining, and the Mountain West Conference Tournament less than a month away, BYU is heading into the home stretch.
The No. 7 Cougars will enjoy a bit of a break this week with a bye Wednesday before visiting last-place TCU Saturday.
BYU (24-2, 10-1) remains in a first-place tie with San Diego State as it vies for a conference championship.
After playing at TCU (10-16, 1-10), the Cougars host Colorado State, then take on the Aztecs in San Diego before wrapping up the regular season with home games against New Mexico and Wyoming.
"We're right on line with what we want to accomplish," said senior guard Jackson Emery. "We have a tough stretch coming up. I'm happy that we have this next week off so we can rest and get ready for a strong finish. We've just got to get ready. This is the fun time of the year. You have to get ready to go because this is what you practiced for nine months ago. This is what you're shooting for."
As the season progresses, opposing teams seem to get more and more physical in the way they defend BYU star Jimmer Fredette.
In the Cougars' 72-59 victory over Utah last Saturday, the Utes' defense focused on slowing down Fredette, who finished with 23 points. Fifteen of Fredette's points came in the final nine minutes of the game.
Utah's defensive game plan for Fredette, though, gave scoring opportunities for Charles Abouo and Emery. Abouo poured in 22 points, tying a career-high, while hitting 8-of-11 shots from the floor. He also recorded his first career double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds.
It was the second straight game that Abouo started in place of Kyle Collinsworth, who missed Wednesday's win at Air Force due to a concussion suffered in the UNLV game on Feb. 5. Collinsworth returned to action on Saturday against Utah, playing 14 minutes, scoring two points (on a pair of free throws) and snatching five rebounds.
Emery, meanwhile, chipped in 17 points to go along with five assists and six steals.
"Every game, we try to identify ourselves as a team," Emery said. "We know Jimmer's going to get his points. We know Jimmer's a great player. He's going to put up his numbers. But at the same time, we know that in order to win, we have to play well ... It's going to get harder for Jimmer. And at the same time, it's going to get a little easier for us because they're going to focus so much on Jimmer."
Fredette, Abouo, and Emery combined to score 62 of BYU's 72 points.
"You've got to pick up where your teammates aren't doing well," Emery said. "That's why I love our team. Teams in the past kind of panicked when certain guys weren't playing well. But we just find a way to win and that's the most important thing. Certain guys seem to step up and that's why we have such good confidence in ourselves."
"This team is very deep," said Abouo. "Regardless of who we have in there, we just try to play hard to do what we can to help the team win."