Oklahoma City » There are sighs of relief, and then there was the one blowing out of the Ford Center on Thursday when the BYU Cougars finally broke through with a win in the NCAA Tournament after 17 long, futile years.
"This was a long time coming," BYU coach Dave Rose said, after drawing a deep breath for about the fourth time.
The Cougars had to work extra hard for it, too, winning 99-92 in double overtime after Florida had the ball last and chances to win it at the end of regulation and the first overtime.
In the second overtime, Michael Loyd hit a three-pointer a half-minute into the five-minute session and BYU never trailed after, jumping to an 84-81 lead. The Cougars never led in the first overtime, or for last the 2 minutes and 41 seconds of regulation.
"We had a second life, or a third life, or whatever it was," said Jimmer Fredette after shooting 13-for-26 from the field and 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. "We pulled it out. I can't believe it."
The alternative -- a ninth straight loss in the tournament after leading by 13 points with less than nine minutes remaining -- would have been unbearable, the Cougars (30-5) acknowledged.
"The monkey is off our backs," said forward Noah Hartsock. "Now we can just have fun."
Averaging 4.6 points a game, Loyd emerged as BYU's hero by scoring a career-high 26 points. He had 10 straight points in the first half to bring the Cougars back from a 28-21 deficit.
The Cougars led 59-46 with less than nine minutes left when Jackson Emery hit a three-pointer, but couldn't hold it, as Florida freshman Kenny Boynton single-handedly brought the Gators back. Boynton finished with 26 points before fouling out in the second overtime.
"He was terrific," Rose said.
Boynton's three-pointer with 2:41 left gave Florida its first lead since Loyd's flurry in the first half, and the Cougars were in big trouble when Chandler Parsons (20 points, 10 rebounds) followed with a three a minute later to give the Gators a 74-70 lead.
But BYU's Emery hit arguably the biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer, seconds later to give the Cougars hope in the final minute.
"Finally got to see one go in," he said. "Felt good."
After Florida's Vernon Macklin missed a free throw, Fredette tied it 75-75 with 26 seconds left. The Cougars escaped when Parsons' fadeaway rolled out with a second or two on the clock.
Loyd saved BYU in the first overtime by scoring six straight points, sandwiched around a rebound putback by Parsons, after the Cougars fell behind by four early in the extra session. Florida had the ball after a timeout with 19.4 seconds left, but didn't get off a good shot, and the marathon game went five minutes longer.
Fredette made two of his three three-pointers, back-to-back, in the second overtime.
"It's a great feeling," said Fredette, who registerd the 29th 20-point game of his career. "Obviously, we hadn't won a game since '93, and we were very aware of that. ... It was our time."
Time to let out a big sigh of relief.
In Short » BYU gives up a 13-point lead and trails late at the end of regulation and the first overtime, but wins its first NCAA Tournament game since 1993.
Key Moment » Jackson Emery's three-pointer with 1:44 remaining in regulation trims Florida's lead to one.
Key Stat » Jimmer Fredette and Michael Loyd combine for 63 points for BYU.