OKLAHOMA CITY — Going into Thursday's NCAA first-round game against Florida, the BYU Cougars knew the Gators could potentially hurt them on the offensive glass.
They were comparing them to fellow Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State, a team that views every offensive possession as a two- or three-shot opportunity.
Florida lived up to the billing, burning the Cougars for 20 offensive rebounds.
"It's a real physical team and we had a hard time rebounding the ball," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We got stops and we did a good job defensively, they just got second shots and kept putting them back in."
The rebounds that mattered most in crunch time, however, belonged to BYU freshman center Brandon Davies. Five of Davies' six rebounds came in the 10 minutes of overtime, as did his lone steal.
The steal came right after Michael Loyd Jr. opened the second overtime with a 3-pointer and the Gators came down and tried to feed the ball inside. Instead, Davies knocked the ball loose, the Cougars scored on the other end, and it was suddenly a two-possession game in BYU's favor.
"Brandon was such a good defensive presence for us, and we were able to facilitate our offense through him, and he got some big rebounds for us," Rose said.
All of Davies' rebounds were at crucial times. The biggest was after Jimmer Fredette hit a free throw to put BYU up 86-83 in the second overtime and the Gators had missed a potential tying 3 on the other end. Davies went into a crowd of Florida big guys and pulled the rebound away — ensuring that Florida did not get another chance to tie.
"We all take it personally whenever our guy or someone else's gets the rebound, so I just made sure that it was me that got the rebound," Davies said. "I missed a couple, but the ones that were there I made sure there was no way anyone else was getting that ball."
JIMMER IN THE SPOTLIGHT: After scoring 37 points and hitting two 3-pointers in the second overtime, Fredette was swarmed in postgame interviews by the national media. Most questions related to Fredette playing for BYU instead of a big-time program in the East. Fredette responded that none really recruited him, feeling he was too slow.
"Hopefully, I've proved them wrong," he said.
A REWARD FOR THE SENIORS: Thursday's NCAA Tournament win came on the fourth try for senior Jonathan Tavernari and third try for senior Chris Miles. Both were basking in the glory afterwards.
"The things we do that got us 29 victories, we were able to show off today," Tavernari said. "But this is not it. This is not the last time we're going to play college basketball."
Miles added, "To lose our lead in regulation, and then to get down in overtime was devastating. But to overcome that is just unbelievable."
A NEW RECORD AND COUNTING: When freshman Tyler Haws hit two free throws with 15:56 remaining, it gave him 40 consecutive makes from the free-throw line, breaking the mark of 39 straight set by Fredette earlier this season. Haws hit his next two free throws later in the game, and now has made 42 straight.
"I try not to look at that stuff (records) and just go up and shoot them," he said.
GAME NOTES: With one steal Thursday, guard Jackson Emery now has 90 on the season, one short of the MWC record of 91 held by former UNLV guard Marcus Banks. ... Fredette's 37 points ties the 37 that Danny Ainge scored against UCLA in 1991 for BYU's postseason single-game record. ... Fredette has now scored 30 or more points in three straight games. ...Michael Loyd's 26 points is the seventh-highest postseason scoring game in BYU history. ... Fredette's 37 and Loyd's 26 marks only the second time that BYU has had two players score more than 20 points in a postseason game. ... BYU's NCAA record is now 12-27, and the Cougars are now 2-0 in NCAA overtime games and 3-0 all-time against Florida.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company