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March 24, 2011NEW ORLEANS - This time, Florida dominated the final five minutes.
That was the only significant change despite all the talk about the dramatic difference between Florida and BYU since the Cougars won their two-overtime affair in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
The Gators will take it, though. Deeper and fresher than the Cougars, they outscored them 15-6 in overtime to win going away, 83-74, on Thursday night at the New Orleans Arena. Second-seeded Florida will play No. 8 seed Butler, which beat Wisconsin 61-54 in the nightcap, on Saturday with the fourth Final Four in coach Billy Donovan's tenure on the line.
Forcing NCAA scoring leader Jimmer Fredette to take 29 shots on his way to 32 points, the Gators blew chances to put the Cougars away in regulation before blowing them out in the extra session.
"I was nervous going into overtime because I didn't want our season to end," said Florida guard Kenny Boynton, Fredette's primary defender. "When we got our first basket, I just knew we were good."
Alex Tyus grabbed one of his career-high 17 rebounds with one hand and scored on a put-back to give Florida the lead for good, 70-68, 20 seconds into overtime. Boynton, who stayed in Fredette's face all game despite playing with a sprained ankle he sustained against UCLA five days earlier, hit a runner in the lane and a 3-pointer to extend the advantage to 76-70. Chandler Parsons drained another 3, and Tyus finished off the Cougars with a dunk to make the score 81-72 with 1:10 left.
"All year we've won our close games," Boynton said. "When the game gets close, we hit big shots from inside and outside. Before this overtime, I was just thinking we needed to get stops to win the game. Our offense was coming."
The key play turned out to be 5-8 point guard Erving Walker's running rebound of a loose ball that hit the floor with 11 seconds left in regulation after Boynton missed an outside jumper. If BYU had corralled it, the Cougars could have won before overtime.
Instead, the Gators held for the final shot, and even though Parson's off-balanced contested leaner was nowhere close, they had the fresher legs for overtime.
The rebound redeemed an otherwise forgettable finish for Walker, who missed all six shots he took from the field in the second half after scoring 14 before the break.
"I was actually kind of lucky (on the rebound) because I was supposed to get back after Kenny's shot, but I just hung around a little bit," Walker said. "I saw the ball go to the corner and I just make a hustle play and was able to come up with the ball."
Fredette, running on empty after playing every minute, turned the ball over twice and missed both of his shots in overtime before exiting with 36.2 seconds. He had nothing left after scoring BYU's last nine points of regulation, including a ridiculous 30-foot shot that tied the score at 63 with 4:58 remaining.
He finished 11 of 29 from the floor and 3 of 15 from 3-point range. He also did not shoot a free throw in the first half after living at the line all year.
"I tried my best on every shot to be in his face every time he'd rise up," Boynton said. "I played into his moves before he did them. He started settling a lot and taking a lot of 3s instead of going to the hole."
Tyus led the Gators with 19 points, sinking eight of nine shots and even hitting his second 3-pointer of the season early in the first half. Center Vernon Macklin managed only five shot attempts as BYU collapsed on him almost every time he touched the ball, and Tyus was the beneficiary.
"They were leaving Alex to get Vernon," Donovan said. "He got off to a good start, made his first jump shots and just kind of got things going. He was just really athletically very active, and that helped."
A frustrated Fredette got little help from his teammates, none of whom reached double figures. It was the first time all season no second BYU player had 10 or more points.
Florida, by contrast, had four starters between 16 and 19 points, while the fifth, Macklin, had nine.
Still, the Gators almost got Jimmered because they could not shake the Cougars when they had a chance. Leading 61-55 after Tyus put back his own missed dunk and converted a 3-point play with 9:20 left, they failed to score despite stopping BYU four times in a row.
Fredette took over from there, hitting four straight free throws, turning a steal into a layup and draining his impossibly long 3.
With two shots to give BYU the lead, though, he was way off. When Kyle Collingsworth missed the back end of a one-and-one with 43.5 seconds left, the Cougars lost their last opportunity to go ahead.
Tyus, Walker, Parsons and Boynton all hit 3-pointers as Florida started 8 of 9 from the floor, taking a quick 20-10 lead. But the Gators kept launching from long range and shot themselves into trouble, hitting only five of their next 29 treys.
Fredette could not hit anything early, going almost 14 minutes without scoring while missing his first five attempts.
That set the tone for the finish.
"You definitely could tell he was getting a little frustrated, and that's a credit to our guys who were guarding him, especially Kenny Boynton," Parsons said. "He stayed with him and really made it difficult for him out there."