Friday March 25th, 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- Jimmer Fredette may have scored 32 points, but his last college game was one he'd probably rather forget. In BYU's 83-74 loss to Florida in the Sweet 16 Thursday night, the final three stats of the season's biggest scoring sensation were a turnover, one missed three-pointer and a foul. As he walked off the court to applause with 36 seconds left, Fredette shook his head in frustration, the waggling bandage on his chin -- earned when he hit the floor and cut his face after being tripped in the second half -- the badge of a physical, frustrating night.

Fredette and his teammates, none of whom broke into double figures, fell victim to a far more balanced offense, a career night by senior Alex Tyus, and a team that had learned to love overtime.

These teams last met in last year's NCAA tourney, specifically the first round in Oklahoma City. In that game, Fredette scored 37 points in a 99-92 double overtime win, launching his national celebrity.

This time, the game's opening act promised a Florida blowout: The Gators shot a torrid 82 percent for the first six minutes, and for the first 14 minutes, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, with some relief from freshman Scottie Wilbekin, did what no one else in college basketball had done all season: hold Fredette scoreless and have him looking tentative. "We did some drills, so I know when he goes to the hole he does a lot of faking up and not jumping," said Boynton, who didn't have a lot of time to prepare because of an ankle sprain suffered in Saturday's win over UCLA. "For the amount of time I had to prepare for him, I think I did a pretty good job."

With less than seven minutes left, Fredette finally started to find seams in the Florida defense and scored his first layup. But he and his teammates had no answer for the 6-foot-8 Tyus, the team's fifth-leading scorer who more than doubled his season averages of 8.6 points and 5.7 rebounds with 19 points and 17 rebounds. "I can't remember him ever having a game like that," said assistant Larry Shyatt afterward. "But I always knew he had the potential."

"Nobody can match his athleticism," says freshman forward Patric Young of Tyus. "He just goes up and grabs the ball and he's able to put it back in the hoop."

As good as Tyus was, he was just one of four Gators who scored between 16 and 19 points. Fellow senior Chandler Parsons had 16 to go with nine rebounds and seven assists, and Boynton and Erving Walker delivered 17 and 16, respectively. BYU's box score was tellingly lopsided: Fredette had 32 points, on 11-of-29 shooting, including 3-of-15 from the three-point line; the next highest scorers were Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock, who both had nine points.

Just as important as their balance was the Gators' ability to finish. Since last year's NCAA ouster, the Gators have thrived in overtime. They've played in four overtime games this season, winning the last three. On Thursday night, they made quick work of BYU in the extra session, jumping to a four-point lead before pulling away with two minutes to go, all while holding Fredette scoreless.

"We're probably the best team in the nation in overtime wins," said Young. "We're used to this feeling. We're kind of excited to be in this situation. We're not tired." Then he added, "We prefer the game not to go into overtime, but if it does, we're going to get that win."

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