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BYU fans flock to New Orleans

By KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 24, 2011 at 10:23 p.m.



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NEW ORLEANS -- BYU Cougar fans officially outnumbered fans of any other school playing in New Orleans this week as part of the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

BYU's senior guard Jimmer Fredette led the third-seeded Cougars against second-seeded Florida Thursday evening. The Cougars fought hard, but ended up falling short in overtime -- losing 83-74.

New Orleans probably expected a few BYU fans to make the journey, but the Cougars showed up in droves.

The BYU Ticket Office sold 800 tickets to Thursday night's game. That's 300 more tickets sold than any other school playing in New Orleans, including Wisconsin, Butler and Florida.

Still, it's hard to say just how many BYU fans showed up because there were multiple places to buy tickets, including online and through the arena.

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No matter which team they went to support, fans shelled out a lot of money just to get there. Flights to New Orleans from Salt Lake City the past few days approached $500 one-way and $900 to $1,000 round-trip with stops. One direct flight was $2,000.

Not all fans in New Orleans are from out of town. Street musician Hack Bartholomew had high praise for Jimmer Fredette.

"I think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread," he said. "He has a God-given, anointed talent to play basketball, and I really admire him."

Fans gather at Marriott Center in Provo

Meanwhile, BYU fans who couldn't make the trip to New Orleans still had great seats.

The game was displayed on the big screen at the Marriott Center in Provo -- the Cougars' home court. More than 2,000 people showed up for the party.

Fans we spoke to after Thursday's loss had mixed feelings. Many were upset the team lost, but extremely happy with how far they went this season.

"I love watching the team play," said fan Nate Martin.

With every shot made and every shot missed, fans like Brady Miller just loved it.

"Even though we're cheering at a screen, we're even holding our fingers up," he said.

The loudest cheers came when the game went into overtime. But as BYU fell too far behind, Miller could only watch, while others got a jump on traffic.

The amazing season was over.

"This is kind of a sad day for BYU," Miller said. "We went down to the wire all the way to the end."

Fan Laura Mortensen said, "I'm satisfied. It was a good year, and you couldn't ask for more."

With Jimmer graduating this year, next year's team will be very different. That makes this year's season one to remember.

Story written by Andrew Adams with contributions from Alex Cabrero.

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