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Provo • When the euphoria that came with advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years finally died down a little bit Saturday night for the third-seeded BYU Cougars after they crushed Gonzaga 89-67, reality set in for superstar Jimmer Fredette.
Facing second-seeded Florida in the Big Easy on Thursday will be anything but that, Fredette acknowledged.
The Cougars (32-4) will face the Gators (28-7) at New Orleans Arena in Louisiana in a Southeast region semifinal, a rematch of last year's tournament opener in Oklahoma City that BYU pulled out 99-92 in double overtime. Oddsmakers have installed the Gators as early three-point favorites.
Florida downed UCLA 73-65 in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday to move into the Sweet 16 for the first time since it won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.
"We have to be [ready]," Fredette said. "Obviously, we are going to enjoy this one for a little bit, though. Then on Monday we will get started on preparing for Florida. They are a very experienced team now. They have been together for two or three years now. We know they are going to come out and play, and they are going to want to beat us. So we are just going to have to go out and give it our best."
Cougars forward Noah Hartsock, who was 2 of 13 from 3-point range in his past six games, broke out of that slump Saturday, making all three of his 3-point attempts and going 5 of 5 from the field. He said the Cougars don't need to be told that Florida presents a daunting challenge.
"I hope it doesn't go into double overtime again," Hartsock said. "They're a great team. They [have] everyone back. Got some new players, too. It is going to be a great challenge."
The last time BYU was in the Sweet 16, in 1981, Danny Ainge made his famous coast-to-coast drive to beat Notre Dame and move the Cougars into the Elite Eight. Obviously, all eyes in New Orleans will be on Fredette, who recently broke Ainge's all-time school scoring record, to see if Jimmer and the Cougars can continue their run.
Making the Sweet 16 "is very important," Fredette said after scoring 34 points against Gonzaga, points that made him the all-time leading scorer in the history of college basketball in Utah. He now has 2,567, passing Utah's Keith Van Horn, who had 2,542.
"It was one of my goals, coming into the season," Fredette said. "I wanted to make it to the second weekend, and so did this team. So it is extremely important. We are excited that we are able to do it, and now we are excited and ready to go to New Orleans."
Just as important to BYU as getting the win on Saturday was getting its mojo back, several players said.
"Everybody was involved, everybody had a great game," Fredette said. "I think we showed [doubters] that we can put together games like that. I have been saying that all along, that we are still a good team."
Florida guard Kenny Boynton, who torched the Cougars last year with 27 points, sprained his right ankle against UCLA on Saturday. But he said after the game he expects to play against BYU, and expects to guard Fredette, who poured in 37 points against the Gators at the Ford Center.
Boynton fouled out last year in the second overtime, before Fredette made two big 3-pointers. Oddly, Florida is the only team in Division I basketball this season that hasn't had a player foul out of a game.
Twitter: @drewjay Remembering BYU 99, Florida 92 (2OT)
R Jimmer Fredette led BYU with 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting.
• Florida freshman Kenny Boynton had 27 points before fouling out.
• Florida committed 21 turnovers, while BYU had just 12.
• Michael Loyd Jr., dismissed from BYU last April, scored 26 points off the bench for the Cougars.