PROVO — As the final minutes slipped off the clock during No. 3 BYU's stunning 82-64 loss to New Mexico Wednesday night at the Marriott Center, guard Jimmer Fredette sat on the end of the bench, his head down, staring at the floor.
Fredette's pose symbolized what the BYU basketball team had been through in the previous 24 hours, since the school announced that sophomore forward Brandon Davies had been suspended for the rest of the season for violating the Honor Code.
In the span of a few days, the Cougars have from the highest highs — including beating San Diego State on the road last Saturday — to the lowest lows.
"It's been difficult," said Fredette, who scored a game-high 33 points against the Lobos, on 1-of-9 shooting from 3-point territory. "Brandon's one of our good players. He's like a brother to us. It's tough to lose a guy like that. We've just got to pull together. I think we're going to be alright. We just didn't play well tonight."
BYU (27-3, 13-2) opened the week as a strong contender to receive a No. 1 seed in upcoming the NCAA Tournament earned its highest ranking in 23 years.
On Wednesday, the Cougars looked nothing like a third-ranked team, or a No. 1 seed. The swagger they played with Saturday against the Aztecs had disappeared.
With the loss, BYU also squandered an opportunity to clinch a share of the Mountain West Conference championship.
The Lobos (19-11, 7-8) jumped out to an early 13-2 lead and never looked back. They led by as many as 19 in the first half, which stretched to as many as 24 in the second half.
"New Mexico played really well. They played a great game," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "They came out with a lot of energy and they were efficient. They made shots on their first seven or eight possession and we got ourselves in a position where we weren't scoring early on. We just got in a hurry. We were never really able to get in a rhythm."
"I was a little surprised because we didn't get off to a good start," said swingman Charles Abouo. "I felt like we were ready to play this game. (UNM) came out and played great and we couldn't stop them early."
The Cougars shot a miserable 34 percent from the field, including 5-of-26 from 3-point territory. They were outrebounded, 45-29.
Lobo guard Phillip McDonald scorched the Cougars, scoring 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, while Drew Gordon added 15 points and 16 rebounds. Kendall Williams (15) and Dairese Gary (11) also scored in double figures.
It marked UNM's fourth consecutive victory over BYU. "They have our number," Fredette said.
Certainly, the Cougars missed Davies' presence badly.
BYU had only one practice to prepare for its new-look lineup. In place of Davies, James Anderson made his first career start.
"In a situation like this, everybody responds a little bit different," Rose said. "In situations like this, you need time. We didn't have any time. It was a tough situation right before a team that traditionally we have a hard time matching up with because of their size and length."
Davies addressed the team after he was dismissed from the team.
"He told us everything. He told us he was sorry and that he let us down," Fredette said. "We told him it's okay. That's life. You make mistakes and you have to play through it."
Abouo said there's "no frustration" associated with what happened with Davies. "We love the kid. He's a great friend to all of us. All of us make mistakes in our lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. We're reaching out to him, trying to help him get through this."
Like the players, Rose supports Davies.
"Brandon's heart is in the right place. He wants to continue his education at BYU," he said. "There are a lot of things that are yet to be determined so we'll hear more about that in the next few days.
"In these situations, they're unique to the individual," Rose continued. "In this case, Brandon did the right thing. He's a great young man and we support him. Hopefully, we can get this worked out."
Rose added that he believes Davies will return to BYU to play basketball again.127 comments on this story
As for the Honor Code, Rose said, "Everybody who comes to BYU, every student, whether they're an athlete or not, understand the commitment they make. A lot of people try to judge this, if it's right or if it's wrong. That's not the issue. It's a commitment that you make. Everyone makes the commitment. As you abide by that commitment, you're rewarded. If you don't abide by that commitment, then there's consequences."
This is life now for the Cougars, without Davies. But BYU is determined to make the best of it
"It was tough to deal with," Abouo said of Davies' dismissal. "He's like a brother to me. We just have to move forward. We don't have time to think about the negative things."
The Cougars host Wyoming Saturday in their regular-season finale.