SALT LAKE CITY -- It's the end of an era in BYU basketball. The Cougars finished their best season in 30 years by making it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Florida.
The Cougars had their hands full in New Orleans Thursday night. BYU fought back from a 10-point deficit early on to push the game into overtime. Senior guard Jimmer Fredette had 32 points in the game. But he was the only player who scored double digits and even he admits his shot was off.
In overtime, the Gators hit all the big shots and the Cougars just couldn't keep up. The team talked about it after the game.
It was a lot of fun. We'll look back at it and that we had a great year, but it hurts right now.
Head coach Dave Rose said, "That group of players in the locker room, we just - it was a pretty tough 8 to 10 minutes we just had together as a group because they have been through a lot. We've been through a lot as a group. They always seem to find a way to rise up and be successful."
"I'm definitely disappointed that our season's ended," Fredette said. "I thought we had a great year, we really did. Thirty-two games; got to the Sweet 16. A lot of people thought we couldn't get this far. It was a lot of fun and we'll look back at it and that we had a great year. But it hurts right now."
"It's been everything that we wanted to achieve," said Jackson Emery. "A lot of people doubted us and our ability with the things we went through. They didn't think we could accomplish these things. But it just shows something about these guys, that we're going to fight every day, practice hard."
BYU fans who traveled to New Orleans to see the Cougars are reflecting on the year. They already are missing Jimmer, the nation's leading scorer with unlimited range.
Steve Lallis is looking forward to watching Fredette in the NBA. "He's going to learn a little bit more when he hits the NBA, get that much better," he said.
Alex McKinlay said despite Thursday's loss, the season was a success with 32 wins and a trip to the Sweet 16. "We came up a little short. Florida got their revenge, but it was a great season," he said.
Fans back at home watched the game on a huge screen in the Marriott Center in Provo. They said the loss was disappointing but they're happy they got to be part of a great season.
Fans seem optimistic about next season, which will be BYU's first in the West Coast Conference. With Jimmer graduating this year, next year's team will be very different. Fans said that makes this season one to remember.
Written with contributions from Andrew Adams in New Orleans.