Sweet 16 Recap Southeast Regional - (2)   Florida 83, (3) BYU 74 (OT)

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If you love excitement in the NCAA Tournament, you should want BYU and Florida to play every single year. Whenever these two intersectional opponents meet in the Big Dance, they always manage to leave ticket buyers satisfied and television viewers thoroughly entertained.

The Florida Gators defeated the Brigham Young Cougars in the round of the Sweet 16 at the New Orleans Arena on Thursday night. The Gators served the Cougars a dose of revenge that was one year in the making, as Florida avenged a double-overtime opening-round loss to BYU in last year’s NCAA Tournament. A year ago, BYU emerged from an all-out deathmatch in Oklahoma City, but this time, it was Florida which managed to survive in the Crescent City. BYU fans absorbed the spectacle with enormous disappointment, but any neutral observer had to love the fact that these two teams played bonus cantos for the second straight year in the cauldron of March Madness pressure.

Alex Tyus was tremendous for Florida in this game. The difference-making player for coach Billy Donovan’s Gators scored 19 points and dominated the interior by securing 17 rebounds. Tyus was able to own the painted area because of the highly-publicized suspension to the Cougars’ big man, Brandon Davies. Had Davies been able to play in this game, the Cougars would have been able to fill the middle on defense and play this game much more evenly on the glass. As it was, Florida was able to relentlessly crash the backboard, and Tyus made the most of his opportunity.

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BYU All-American Jimmer Fredette scored a game-high 32 points, but struggled mightily from the field, shooting just 11-for-29, including a weary 3-of-15 total beyond the arc. Donovan showed why he’s one of the elite coaches in college basketball on Thursday: He taught his wing defenders to stay on the ground and not buy Fredette’s combinations of pump fakes and ball fakes. Yes, Fredette was the victim of some blown foul calls over the course of the second half, and the officials were plainly out of line in calling a technical foul on BYU’s Jackson Emery midway through the second half. Yet, for all of those mistakes by the zebras, the fact remains that Florida did a great job of switching and hedging in the attempt to deny easy looks to Fredette. The Gators’ evident preparation and scouting on defense truly enabled them to outlast a gallant opponent from the Mountain West Conference, which lost both of its premier teams in the tournament on Thursday (San Diego State lost to Connecticut in the West Regional semis).

Despite the shooting struggles it experience throughout its roster, BYU fought back for much of the game in key situations. With just under five minutes remaining and the Cougars down three points, Fredette hit a patented 29-footer to tie the ballgame. There was a sense at that moment that BYU was going to make a big charge, but Florida simply wasn’t rattled. The Gators continued to defend Fredette and, despite several dumb possessions of their own, were able to maneuver the game into overtime. It was then that the Gators took complete control of the proceedings, scoring six of the first eight points in the period and ultimately gaining an 81-72 lead with just 1:10 left against an opponent that appeared to run out of gas. Florida needed to put in extra time to do it, but the Gators did manage to secure a trip to the Elite Eight. Florida will play Butler in the final of the Southeast Regional at 4:30 Eastern on Saturday.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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