NEW ORLEANS — BYU's first Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years ended in bitter fashion Thursday night.
The No. 3-seeded Cougars fell to No. 2 Florida, 83-74, in overtime, in the Southeast Region semifinals at New Orleans Arena. It marked the second consecutive season these teams played extra minutes, as BYU won in double-overtime last March in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
This time, however, the Gators (29-7) outscored the Cougars (32-5), 15-6, in OT, to avenge that defeat and advance to the Elite Eight.
"We're definitely disappointed that our season's ended. I thought we had a great year," said senior guard Jimmer Fredette. "We got to the Sweet 16 and a lot of people thought we couldn't get this far. We were always exceeding expectations, myself, and our whole team the whole year. It was a lot of fun. But it hurts right now."
Fredette, who saw his illustrious, record-breaking BYU career come to an end, finished with 32 points on 11-of-29 shooting from the floor, but failed to score in the final eight minutes of the game, including overtime.
During one stretch, he scored 14 straight points for the Cougars, including a 3-pointer that he shot from the French Quarter.
Then, with 2:54 remaining in regulation, Fredette, sporting a bandage on his chin (as a result of a cut sustained after falling to the floor in the second half) and nursing a sore calf, drove relentlessly to the hoop as he has so many times throughout his career, and scored a layup to tie the game at 67.
Those were his final points as a Cougar, as two 3-point attempts in two late possessions in regulation went awry. In overtime, Fredette missed two more 3-pointers and committed two turnovers.
"I got some good looks and missed them," Fredette said. "(Florida) played some good defense. It just didn't happen tonight."
"They made a few more plays than we did at the end, but I was really proud of how our players competed," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "I thought that it was a game where either team could have won right at the end, and it got into overtime. And their overtime looked like they had a little more to finish the game than we did."
Freshman Kyle Collinsworth made one of two free throws with 43.5 seconds left to tie the game at 68 and give Florida the ball with a chance to win. Gator guard Kenny Boynton's 3-point attempt from the corner bounded off the rim but bounced into the hands of the smallest man on the court, Florida's 5-foot-8 Erving Walker.
So, instead of BYU getting the final shot in regulation, the Gators did. Chandler Parsons ended up missing a shot, forcing overtime.
"We had a chance, we got a stop, we had a chance to get the rebound and put it out," Fredette said. "And you never know what could have happened if we got that rebound."
"I was actually kind of lucky because I was supposed to get back (on defense) after Kenny's shot," Walker said, "but I just hung around a little bit and I seen the ball go to the corner and I just made a hustle play and was able to come up with the ball."
In the final five minutes, the Gators jumped out to a quick four-point lead on a putback by Alex Tyus and a Boynton jumper. BYU's Charles Abouo cut the deficit to two with a pair of free throws, but Boynton and Parsons both drilled back-breaking 3-pointers that doomed the Cougars.
"They were ready to go, especially in that overtime," Fredette said.
Tyus gave BYU fits all night and he recorded a double-double with a team-high 19 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
For the game, the Cougars shot 35 percent overall and just 27 percent (10-of-37) from 3-point territory. The Gators hit only 11-of-34 from 3-point range, but they nailed those crucial ones in OT.
Still, the way BYU started the game, it's a minor wonder the game was tied, 36-36, at halftime.
Florida knocked down 10 of its first 12 shots and at one point had a 10-point lead early on. Fredette missed his first six shots from the field and didn't score until the 6:18 mark of the first half. But behind Fredette, the Cougars rallied to seize a three-point lead, 36-33, with less than one minute remaining in the half.
Senior Jackson Emery drilled three 3-pointers early on but sat on the bench for much of the half with two fouls. Emery did not score in the second half.
"I've shot the ball this week pretty well in this arena, so I felt confident all week," Emery said. "Then you get in foul trouble and it's just tough. I've played through that a couple of games this year. It's hard to bounce back."
While disappointed in the outcome, Rose credited the Gators' clutch play down the stretch.
"That was a great college game," he said. "We got behind early and then showed a lot of fight and got back into the game. Then it was just about guys making plays."