BYU basketball: Cougars finally end NCAA jinx

Published: Thursday, March 18 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

OKLAHOMA CITY — How big was BYU's win over Florida?

Well, BYU's coaches and players were sick of hearing about the 17-year drought in the NCAA Tournament. It had become a tiresome refrain, something they didn't want to hear about again.

Dave Rice, the chief assistant to head coach Dave Rose, has watched and listened to his boss handle questions about the so-called jinx the Cougars seemed to have year after year at this event. It was fitting, a 30-win BYU squad ended the jinx.

"It's really special for our guys," said Rice. "We know it is tough to answer questions about teams you never had anything to do with, but that's what we signed up for, and that's what makes it even more special."

The No. 7 seed Cougars defeated No. 10 seed Florida 99-92 in the Ford Center on Thursday and many times in the contest, it appeared BYU was jinxed.

"We lost a 13 point lead and got it back. Our guys gutted it up at the end and different guys stepped up to help make a difference and that's how we've played all season long," said Rice.

Jimmer Fredette, the Cougar All-American who received plenty of hype leading up to the game on a national level, didn't disappoint on this stage before an army of national media.

"Fredette is fabulous but he can't do what he does without other people helping him and that's what Michael Lloyd did. It was nice to have another ball handler out there and it made all the difference for us, they had no answer for Michael," said Rice.

Loyd scored a career high 26 points and is credited by many as BYU's Player of the Game for his effort after BYU struggled in the first half and Loyd brought the Cougars back.

"It's a situation where you have to credit Florida for making big shots. We got the lead with good defense and contested shots but they made big shots to get themselves back in the game and that's the sign of an NCAA tournament team, which is what they are.

We had confidence in our guys going down the stretch and they made big plays and that's what makes this win so gratifying for us.

Rice knows BYU had to get some luck, but also recognizes when Florida took shots late in regulation and the first overtime, they were contested with good defense.

"It's really hard," said Rice. "The thing is we played really good defense on both those. If they make a contested shot at the end, we go home. We've been on the other end of it where there were a couple of plays against Xavier and the first time against Texas A&M that they made and we didn't and that was the difference. There is a very fine line between winning and losing sometimes and that's what you saw out there today."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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