Many Florida fans expected a shootout against high-scoring BYU in order to have a chance at victory, and they certainly got one. The Gators were able to take Brigham Young the distance and then some, but finally ran out of ammo in the 2nd overtime, falling 99-92 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Thursday afternoon in Oklahoma City.
The Gators shot the ball well and at least were able to contain BYU defensively, holding them to their approximate season averages in shooting percentage, but turnovers plagued Florida and allowed the Cougars to build a 13 point lead mid-way throught the 2nd half.
Still, Florida hung tough and fought back with a 22-9 run (including 11 straight from Kenny Boynton) to tie the game with about three minutes remaining in regulation. From there, BYU matched Florida almost shot-for-shot. The Gators had an opportunity with 26 seconds to play to break a 75 point tie, but were unable to capitalize.
In the first overtime, Florida again had the last shot with the score tied at 81, but were unable to convert. Boynton, the Gator's leading scorer with 27 points, fouled out on the second possession of double overtime, and without Boynton's offensive punch and steady defense it was all BYU for the remaining four minutes. Lack of depth, an issue for the Gators all season, also heavily contributed to the 2nd overtime fade.
BYU guards Jimmer Fredette and Michael Loyd, Jr combined for 63 of the Cougars' 99 points with both shooting at least 50% from the floor. Chandler Parsons recorded a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, although he also accounted for five of the Gators' 21 turnovers. Erving Walker found himself in tough matchups against the BYU guards, and hit on only 4-16 shots while committing seven turnovers.
Aside from too many turnovers, the Gators did what they needed to do to give themselves a chance in this game. Playing man-to-man defense, Florida contested BYU's outside shots although Fredette was able to slash and drive in the lane, making several acrobatic lay-ups while drawing Boynton into foul trouble. The Gators also dominated the rebounding stats as they needed to do to have a chance, holding a 38-29 advantage that included 17 offensive rebounds.
It would have been nice to have seen better set plays (or maybe execution of those plays) at the end of regulation and the first overtime when Florida had a chance to win rather than trying to wait until the last second to get a shot off, but otherwise the Gators played well and with determination. BYU, who was trying to avoid another first round loss that has defined their past half-decade, made the big shots when they needed to, and showed no signs of choking on the big stage of the NCAAs.
Florida left it all out on the floor Thursday afternoon and played with poise against a very good BYU team that finished the season ranked in the top 20, and that shows a lot of promise for next season. With Florida only losing senior Dan Werner, it will be easy to look forward to next year with anticipation and high expectations.