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By: Selena Robinson, Freelance Journalist for WorldNewsVine
The 2010 NCAA Tournament got started with a first round game between the tenth-seeded Florida Gators and the seventh-ranked Brigham Young Cougars. Brigham Young came in with a school record 29 wins on the year, while Florida barely squeaked into the Big Dance with an at-large bid. Coach Billy Donovan for the Gators has plenty of tournament experience, having won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007. But, since most of the title-winning starters left for the NBA in the 2007 draft, Florida has been unable to return to the NCAA Tournament. For BYU coach Dave Rose, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the offseason, the year has been an emotional one. And his team responded with a dynamic scoring effort, ranking second overall in offense in the NCAA.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU’s standout player from Plains Falls, NY, got off to an early start, scoring 8 points quickly to lead all scorers. But the Gators were able to neutralize his impact with a balanced offense that kept the score relatively tied for most of the half. While the team doesn’t shoot three-pointers efficiently, they were forced to shoot from the outside when BYU went to the zone defense. When Florida’s chief defender, Vernon Macklin, picked up an early second foul, the team hit three consecutive three point shots and went on a 13-6 run to establish a seven point lead.
It might have seemed to be a strange time to rest Fredette, but while he was on the bench, BYU reserve player Michael Loyd, Jr., originally from Cote D’Ivoire, came in and shot 4 of 4 from the field, giving the team a 10-0 run and creating a 29-28 lead with 4:33 remaining in the first half. After a two pointer by Tyler Haws, the Cougars extended the lead to 31-28 when Donovan called a timeout to stop the momentum. When play resumed, BYU widened the lead to 35-30, but Noah Hartsock fouled Florida starter Kenny Boynton during a three-point attempt and the freshman sank all three free throws to narrow the gap to 35-33 at the half.
The second half opened with both teams trading shots until Fredette made a difficult shot in the paint to widen the lead to 5. But, Parsons responded with a dunk at the other end to give the Gators a closer score of 43 to 40. BYU then went on a scoring run punctuated by a three-point shot from Jonathan Tavernari for a score of 54 to 46 with 11 minutes left in the half. The Gators answered with an 11-2 run, led by Boynton who scored 13 straight points for the team, including three three-pointers. At the end of regulation, the teams were tied at 75.
In overtime, Florida got out to a four point lead with a score of 79 to BYU’s 75. Loyd was fouled and hit both of his free throws to narrow the margin to 2 points with 2:15 to go in the period. On the ensuing possession, Boynton lost the ball and fouled Loyd who again hit his free throws to tie the game at 79. Both teams traded shots again to tie at 81 with 51 seconds remaining. When BYU got possession on a Florida miss, Boynton was able to make a steal and hold the ball for the final seconds of the overtime session. But, the Gators were unable to capitalize on the turnover and the game went into a second overtime.
Loyd opened the second overtime with a three pointer to give the Cougars a 84-81 lead. After Boynton fouled out with a career high 27 points, though, BYU was too much for the Gators and the Cougars advanced beyond the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 1993, winning 99 to 92. BYU will meet the winner of the Kansas State and North Texas matchup in the next round.