Gay busts slump; Jimmer up next

by Edward Lewis

Courtesy of Antonio Zaragoza

LAS VEGAS — It took a few fingernails and a buzzer-beating shot, but the San Diego State men’s basketball team is headed to the Mountain West Conference Championship game for the third time in three years. Take a look at some of the news and notes from Friday’s 74-72 semifinal victory over UNLV.

Slump busted

SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said it took just one basket for him to notice a difference in senior guard D.J. Gay’s game. Gay said it took three baskets for him to finally feel like he was out of his slump.

To the Aztecs, it doesn’t really matter when the epiphany happened. All that matters is that it happened.

Gay, who had been in a 7-for-35 3-point shooting stretch in his last five games, broke out of his funk, made three of his four 3-point attempts and knocked down six of his 11 field goal attempts on Friday night, including the game-winning, buzzer-beating shot.

“D.J. is a winner,” Fisher said. “You want a guy like that on your side. I had a feeling that D.J. would have himself ready to play a really good game and a really smart game tonight, and he did just that.”

Motivated guard

Fisher downplayed it in the postgame press conference, but Gay wasn’t afraid to admit it.

SDSU had found out it would play BYU just minutes before its tip-off with UNLV, and Gay said a potential rematch with BYU was his “No. 1 motivation” for beating the Rebels and advancing to the championship game.

The Aztecs will play the Cougars at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The game could decide who receives the MWC’s West Region seed.

Stopping the Jimmer

In the locker room after the game, the talk between the players wasn’t about Gay’s game-winning shot or the chance at a potential MWC title, it was about one number: 52.

“He dropped 52 with only one free throw?” Senior forward Malcolm Thomas said after the game. “Dang!”

“He” is BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. Fifty-two is the number of points he scored against New Mexico in the Cougars’ semifinal win earlier Friday.

The 22-for-37 shooting performance prompted a smile and this answer from senior forward Billy White: “He’s just amazing. It’s just impossible to stop him. You can only hope to contain him.”

SDSU will have to do that on Saturday if it wants to be back-to-back champs. White said he would guard Fredette happily if Fisher wanted him to.

Gay said the gameplan for beating BYU would be simple.

“You’ve got to keep Jimmer under 52 and make sure they don’t hit 14 3-pointers,” he said.

Fredette and the Cougars are 2-0 against SDSU this season.

Short Shots

SDSU now has five straight wins against UNLV. … The Aztecs are tied with Kansas for the most victories this season (31).

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“I cant wait for that game tomorrow. You’ve got to keep Jimmer under 52 and make sure they don’t hit 14 3-pointers.”