Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 3:30 p.m.
- NCAA LIVE BLOG: BYU will take on Kansas State Saturday after Cats pummel Mean Green
- On a senior-laden roster, junior Lucas O'Rear is the driving force for Northern Iowa
- For Willis and Stanback, it's a second chance to make a first NCAA tournament impression
- Fans support Rebels as they start their tournament journey
- Notebook: Willis, Jasper hoping to be at full strength in time for Thursday
- Dancin' Again: UNLV headed to OKC as 8-seed, will face Northern Iowa Thursday
- Breaking down the rest of UNLV's pod in OKC
- Las Vegas sports books: Kansas the favorite to win championship
- 2009-10 UNLV Schedule/Results
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
OKLAHOMA CITY — By no means was Thursday afternoon the first time BYU's Michael Loyd Jr. had stepped up to provide a spark with teammate Jimme Fredette struggling.
But certainly it was the biggest.
The Palo Verde High grad scored a career-high 26 points while playing a career-high 35 minutes as the No. 7 seed in the West region advanced to Saturday's second round with a 99-92 double-overtime victory over No. 10 Florida at the Ford Center.
He did so on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and a 9-of-10 performance at the free-throw line, helping the program snap an eight-game NCAA tournament losing streak which dated back to 1993.
"He was, you know, unbelievable," an exhausted BYU coach Dave Rose said afterwards. "You look at 26 points, you know, everyone is going to think that's how we won the game, but Mike was really disruptive defensively and gave us a chance to kind of hold down (Erving) Walker and (Kenny) Boynton, two really, really good guards, but that's how things work.
"He was ready and his number was called and he came through for us."
Loyd was called upon midway through the first half, when BYU looked out of sync across the board and was having trouble adjusting to the visible athletic advantage Florida held.
The Gators led 28-21 when Loyd uncorked a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to four.
He followed it with a pair of short leaners and another trey in transition, and, out of nowhere, his personal 10-0 run put BYU ahead and had Florida stung.
More than anything, though, Loyd gave BYU a boost with the presence of his blazing speed and quickness. It's those assets that have made him a valuable piece off of the bench all season.
"We were maybe a little slow, yeah," Loyd said. "I just tried to come in, get some defensive stops and help the team out as best I could. The ball just happened to be in my hands, and I happened to be at the right place at the right time at that point in the game."
Loyd emerged again for BYU after a Chandler Parsons baseline jumper at the end of regulation drew back iron for Florida.
With the Cougars still trying to find some footing in overtime after letting a 13-point second-half lead slip, Loyd scored all six BYU points in the first overtime frame, including all four of his free throw tries.
In the second OT, the Cougars' resident star — Fredette — did most of the heavy lifting, as he finally broke the Gators' backs with a pair of NBA-range 3-pointers.
He scored a game-high 37 points after tallying only eight in an out-of-sorts first-half performance.
Still, the buzz was all about Loyd, a sophomore from Las Vegas whose emergence late in the season for BYU has been as valuable as anyone's.
He first broke out when Fredette fell ill before the team's non-conference finale against Eastern New Mexico. Against an overmatched foe, he made sure things went accordingly, responding with a then-career-high 17 points in a then-career-high 33 minutes.
Four nights later, he came off of the bench in the second half when Fredette had to call it a night against UNLV, and again gave a big lift as BYU opened up Mountain West Conference play with a 77-73 triumph.
Now, as is the case with Fredette also, the rest of the nation will see what the Mountain West already learned this season.
"He's a very, very aggressive player," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They play much, much faster when he's in the game. Fredette to me has got good command, good pace. When they bring (Charles) Abouo in and Loyd in, the intensity level goes up.
"It makes it really, really difficult."
The BYU locker room was incredibly loose afterwards, with teammates joking around and doing their best to distract Fredette and Loyd as they were surrounded by cameras and reporters.
It's hard not to be loose, though, when a 17-year curse has been lifted.
"It passed through your mind, that 'Not again, we've been here before,'" said junior guard Jackson Emery, who was a part of BYU's first-round exits against Texas A&M each of the last two seasons. "But I think we've learned from this year from blowing leads and other teams coming back. We can still win. They're going to give us opportunities, we just have to take advantage of them."
Now the Cougars essentially will play with house money Saturday when they face 2-seed Kansas State, who in a game essentially played in its backyard, routed 15-seed North Texas, 82-62.
• Florida freshman guard Kenny Boynton led Florida with 27 points, but fouled out during the second overtime. He was 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, junior forward Chandler Parsons had a double-double with 20 points and 10 boards, with six assists to boot.
• BYU was out-rebounded badly, 45-33, which included 20 offensive rebounds for the Gators. Given the aggressiveness the Kansas State big men show, that will need to be improved upon for BYU by Saturday. K-State is fifth in the nation in offensive rebounds per game.
• With the victory, BYU won 30 games for the first time in program history, improving to 30-5 overall.