ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Tony Snell hit three big shots down the stretch. Before that, he did a nice defensive number against the nation's top scorer.
Snell, a freshman, scored a career-high 16 points and made three huge 3-pointers in the final five minutes, helping New Mexico beat No. 9 BYU 86-77 on Saturday.
``I just tried to play as hard as I can,' Snell said. ``Coach told me to be ready and shoot with confidence.'
Snell also made things tough during the opening half for BYU's standout scorer, Jimmer Fredette, who finished with 32 points but with Snell in his face had just five through the first 17 minutes.
Lobos coach Steve Alford said the idea was to use Snell's rangy 6-foot-7 frame to wear down Fredette.
``Coach told me it was a big assignment for me,' Snell said. ``He told me to use my length and maybe that would bother him a little bit, and I just did my best. He's a great player. Oh, man. It was a hard assignment for me.'
Kendall Williams, another New Mexico freshman, also had 16 points while Drew Gordon scored 15, Dairese Gary had 14 points and 10 assists and Phillip McDonald added 11 points for the Lobos (15-7, 3-4 Mountain West), who ended BYU's 10-game winning streak three days after the Cougars knocked off No. 4 San Diego State.
Fredette shot 12 of 26 from the field, including a 6-of-9 performance from 3-point range. But Snell did the defensive work early before Gary took the assignment in the second half, bumping Fredette and making him work to get open.
``Dairese Gary is a tough-minded kid,' Fredette said. ``He's going to battle. They did a good job. They did the same things that a lot of teams have done, just trying to be physical.'
Brandon Davies scored 15 and Noah Hartsock had 10 for the Cougars (20-2, 6-1).
New Mexico's fans were charged up for BYU's final visit to The Pit for the foreseeable future, now that the Cougars are leaving the Mountain West next season.
They were able to enjoy this one by rushing the court afterward, capping a raucous afternoon. It was the highest ranked team the Lobos took out at home since a 77-74 win over No. 3 Utah in 1998. It also marked the first time New Mexico has won three straight over BYU in 11 years.
The atmosphere was so intense that seven rows of bench seating collapsed in the student section. No injuries were reported. New Mexico facilities director Scott Dotson said the benches apparently broke because students were jumping on them.
``The Pit is always a very, very emotional place to play,' Fredette said. ``It's very loud in here. The fans are very passionate about Lobo basketball. We've been in a lot of tough places this year, a lot of sellouts, but this is a great place to play.'
The Cougars had everything in control after Fredette's 3-pointer pushed their lead to 53-40 with 14:36 remaining but the Lobos charged back with a 10-0 run, fueled by an aggressive defense.
During that burst, Fredette was mugged on a drive to the basket but New Mexico came away with the ball and Gary, who moments earlier had scored inside, swished a 3-pointer to make it 53-48. Then Gary found Chad Adams for a layup that cut the margin to 53-50 with 12:02 to go.
Snell scored on a reverse layup to make it 53-52 at the 11:21 mark. From there, it was close until the Lobos took a 70-67 lead with 4:50 to play after the New Mexico freshmen got hot - Williams and Snell each made a 3-pointer and Williams added a driving layup.
Alford said he went with a four-guard lineup to push the ball at BYU.
``But that's scary because they like uptempo. They can score,' Alford said. ``The last 10 minutes, we finally made shots and they didn't. We made some free throws and they missed some. We made key defensive stops down the stretch. That's what you've got to be able to do.'
The Lobos also made 9 of 11 from the field over the last 9:02, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers.
Fredette was as entertaining as ever, but his shooting touch started to evaporate in the closing minutes, and the Lobos weren't finished. Snell hit two 3-pointers to cap a 10-3 burst over a three-minute span to put New Mexico up 80-70 with 2:02 to go.
``We've seen this coming all along with Tony,' Alford said. ``His whole thing is being assertive and having enough confidence in himself that he can do it. We see it in practice. That's why his minutes have been going up.'
Fredette came in leading the nation with a 27.4-point scoring average, and he was fresh off a 43-point effort in BYU's win over San Diego State.
In his previous four games, Fredette had averaged an astonishing 38.2 points while shooting 54.8 percent from 3-point range.
``He's a beast,' Gary said. ``What can you say? Some of the shots he made, I was like, 'Wow. Did he just make that in my face?' A player like that, you have to live and die defending him one on one. If he makes big shots, you have to go to the other end and stay poised.'
This time, it took 17 minutes for Fredette to find a rhythm. With New Mexico fans booing every time he touched the ball and Snell waving his long arms, Fredette made just two of his first five shots until he scored seven straight over a 1-minute span late in the first half.
``We wanted to put some length on him, and Tony's got some great length,' Alford said. ``We made him put up some difficult shots. I thought hopefully it wore him down a little bit, and we tried to go at him at the other end, make sure he was engaged defensively as much as he was offensively.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved