NEW ORLEANS — Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette may have been the season’s biggest star, but the end to his illustrious collegiate career had anything but a Hollywood feel to it. With the game on the line Thursday night, he disappeared at exactly the wrong moment, and Florida pulled away for an 83-74 overtime victory over the Cougars in a Southeast Region semifinal.
After scoring 32 points during a gripping 40 minutes, Fredette was held scoreless after regulation and committed two turnovers as Florida outscored BYU, 15-6, in the overtime period. Fredette finished 11 of 29 from the field and just 3 for 15 from three-point range.
The Gators moved on to face Butler in Saturday’s Elite Eight, the furthest Florida has advanced in the NCAA tournament since winning back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.
Led by a 19-point, 17-rebound performance from senior forward Alex Tyus, the Gators had four players finish in double figures. Besides Fredette, no other Cougars player scored more than nine points, and second-leading scorer Jackson Emery didn’t have a field goal over the final 38 minutes of the game.
“I know there’s a lot made of Jimmer Fredette, and he’s a great player, but we really felt coming into the game the key was to shut down the other four players on the floor,” Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. “I think the biggest thing was we were able to hold all their guys under double figure points other than Fredette.”
The contest, which featured an NCAA tournament-record 71 three-point attempts, was close throughout, and after Fredette tied the score at 63 with just less than five minutes remaining, nerves seemed to get the best of both teams.
Florida and BYU each missed crucial free throws down the stretch, but the Gators had a chance to win the game in regulation. With 24 seconds remaining, guard Kenny Boynton missed an open look from three-point range, but guard Earvin Walker tracked down the offensive rebound.
Following a timeout by Donovan, forward Chandler Parsons missed a runner off the glass with two seconds on the clock, and the game went to overtime.
From there, though, the Gators were too much for the Cougars. Tyus had four points in the extra session and Boynton added five.
It was Boynton who drew the assignment of guarding Fredette throughout the night, and despite some periodic spurts, he made the star guard work for every basket he got. Fredette started the game 0 for 6 from the field and didn’t score his first points until 6 minutes 17 seconds remained in the first half.
“I think [Boynton] did an unbelievable job limiting his open looks,” Parsons said. “If you look back, pretty much all of his shots were off balance. He had 32 points, but . . . you could definitely tell he was getting a little frustrated.”
But the Gators weren’t able to keep Fredette subdued the entire night.
Following a technical foul by Emery for unsportsmanlike conduct midway through the second half, Florida embarked on a 12-5 run to take a six-point lead. BYU fans, meantime, grew restless, throwing a piece of debris onto the court at one point after referees didn’t call a foul when Fredette fell hard to the floor and opened up a cut on his chin.
But Fredette, who finished the game wearing a bandage on his bloodied chin and said he suffered an upper calf injury at some point during the game, only seemed to draw inspiration from the no-call. He immediately drove to the rim and was fouled, hitting two free throws.
He then tied the score at 63, converting a Walker turnover into a fast-break layup and pulling up from just inside the BYU coaches’ box for one of his signature long range three-pointers. It was part of a stretch in which Fredette scored 11 of the Cougars’ 12 points.
Those were his final points of the evening, and as it turned out, the last barrage of his college career. But when BYU Coach Dave Rose took him out of the game with 36 seconds left in overtime, the entire New Orleans Arena crowd — even the Florida faithful — stood up and gave him a rousing ovation.
“We had chances and I thought that we fought and we battled,” Fredette said. “I just didn’t make some shots at the end. If I had made them it would have been a different story.”