PROVO, Utah – Jimmer Fredette scored 22 points, Jackson Emery tied Danny Ainge as BYU's career steals leader, and the 15th-ranked Cougars beat Air Force 76-66 on Saturday.
Noah Hartsock had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Brandon Davies added in 10 points and six boards for BYU (16-1, 2-0 Mountain West Conference).
Michael Lyons scored 14 points and Mike Fitzgerald added a career-high 13 for Air Force (10-5, 1-1).
Fredette had 13 points after the break to stretch the Cougars' seven-point halftime lead to 18 midway through the second half.
The Falcons pulled to 69-61 with 3 minutes remaining, but Hartsock hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 to go to seal BYU's win.
Air Force held BYU to 42 percent shooting for the game, including 30 percent on 3-pointers, but the Cougars led most of the way and held on with strong rebounding and reliable free-throw shooting. The Cougars were 19 of 22 from the line, outrebounded the Falcons 38-25 and had 13 offensive rebounds for an 18-4 advantage on second-chance points. Fredette was a perfect 7 of 7 from the line.
Air Force scored the game's first five points, but BYU scored the next seven to take the lead. The Falcons regained the lead at 10-9 on a 3-pointer by Fitzgerald.
But when Emery hit a contested 3-pointer on the other end the Cougars went back on top for good. Seconds later, Emery stole the ball and fed Fredette for a three-point play to push the lead to five. The steal gave Emery 195 for his career, tying him with Ainge.
Fredette converted another three-point play moments later and Charles Abouo hit a 3 to give BYU its biggest lead of the first half at 29-17. Two late baskets by Stephen Rogers helped the Cougars hold a 37-30 lead at the break.
The Cougars opened the second half with two early three-point plays to quickly extend their lead to 43-30. Over the next eight minutes BYU slowly widened the margin to 18.
A 3 by Fredette made it 48-33 game. Then, a 3 two possessions later by Hartsock, and 3 by Logan Magnusson and free throw by Kyle Collinsworth gave the Cougars a 58-40 lead. Magnusson's hoop was BYU's fourth-straight from behind the the arc.
After a basket by Rogers with 13 minutes remaining kept BYU ahead by 18, the Cougars went more than 9 minutes without a basket. Meanwhile, a 3 by Fitzgerald and a follow-up 3 by Tom Fow, and four straight Air Force free throws cut BYU's lead to 65-56. A basket by Abouo finally ended BYU's drought.