LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jimmer Fredette wanted to be aggressive and get to the free throw line.
"I know I could make it from there," the junior point guard said after sinking 23 of 24 foul shots and setting a Mountain West Conference tournament record with 45 points in No. 14 BYU's 95-85 win over TCU on Thursday night.
Fredette's fantastic performance, which helped the Cougars (29-4) break their school record from 1950-51 for wins in a season, was the highlight of three thrillers in the MWC quarterfinals.
No. 8 New Mexico (29-3), which also set a school record for wins, held off scrappy Air Force 65-59 thanks to conference player and newcomer of the year Darington Hobson, who had 28 points and 15 rebounds.
San Diego State (23-8) held off Colorado State 72-71 when D.J. Gay sank two free throws with 23 seconds left and Travis Busch missed a desperation runner from 3-point range at the buzzer.
Even the nightcap was competitive — for a half. Utah trailed UNLV (24-7) by just four points at the break before the Runnin' Rebels put away the Utes 73-61 behind 13 points and 12 boards from freshman guard Anthony Marshall.
Fredette missed just one free throw in 24.
"I'm still upset about that one, to be honest with you," Fredette said with a smirk. "I'll think about it tonight and try to correct that. Hopefully, I'll make all of them next time."
The second-seeded Cougars will face third-seeded UNLV in the semifinals Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, followed by fourth seed San Diego State against top seed New Mexico.
Fredette, a junior from Glens Falls, N.Y., also set a tournament from the line.
Utah's Lou Kelly held the tournament scoring record with a 35-point performance against New Mexico in 2002, but it was Fredette's demolition of Ricky Morgan's old marks of 18 foul conversions in 19 attempts for UNLV against Wyoming in 2005 that was most impressive.
"I've seen Shaq get fouled a lot, but he hasn't made as many as Jimmer has," teammate Jackson Emery said. "It's great. Jimmer is a terrific free-throw shooter. It's almost automatic when you foul him."
The Cougars needed every bit of Fredette's special night because TCU played much better than it had in losing at home to BYU by 30 points five nights earlier. The seventh-seeded Horned Frogs (13-19) led 40-39 at halftime but couldn't stop Fredette, who scored 30 of his points after the break.
Fredette shrugged off his record-breaking performance and his spectacular second half as "just being aggressive."
"I got to the foul line a lot, which was good," he said.
"Jimmer's ability to get to the free-throw line tonight was the difference in the game," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
About the only place he couldn't score from was beyond the arc, where he went 2 for 10. However, one of his 3s that did fall came after four straight swishes from the stripe and put the Cougars ahead 59-51.
"He played a great game," TCU guard Keion Mitchem marveled. "We didn't have any answers."
Rather than trying to challenge his career high of 49 points, which he scored against Arizona on Dec. 28, Fredette dribbled out the final 20 seconds at halfcourt, giving a handshake and chest bump to Ronnie Moss, who led TCU with 22 points, just before the buzzer sounded.
Rose wasn't surprised there were so many near upsets in the MWC quarterfinals, where all four teams that advanced fancy themselves NCAA tournament locks.
"I think it's just part of the human competitive spirit that makes this time of year so intriguing because those guys, they bind together, they get five, six, seven guys that are all playing for one thing, and that's just to try to win a game and advance," Rose said.