NEW ORLEANS -- Dave Rose sent Brock Zylstra to the scorer's table with 36.2 seconds remaining.
He had simple instructions.
"Go get Jimmer."
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So the sophomore guard checked in and the sport's biggest star checked out of a back-and-forth game that was suddenly decided. He walked off a college basketball court for the final time and received a standing ovation after launching a lot of shots and not making enough of them. He got a hug from his coach and every other person on the Brigham Young bench, then took a seat in the seventh chair, closest to midcourt, and watched Florida finalize Thursday night's 83-74 overtime victory.
It was 8:40 p.m. here in New Orleans.
"It's tough that it's over," Jimmer Fredette would later say. "But I've had a great time."
This NCAA tournament still has 12 teams and more than 100 players remaining.
But none of them is BYU.
And none is Fredette.
The school that had the most interesting season and featured the nation's most fascinating player fell behind by seven points not even three minutes into overtime and lacked the composure, energy and shot-making ability to pull back even. So Florida will play in Saturday's Elite Eight while BYU returns to Utah.
A season that turned Fredette into a cultural icon and one-name sensation ended 11 days and three games short of the stated goal. He played 44 minutes and missed 18 of 29 shots, including 12 of the 15 he took from 3-point range. That he didn't score in the opening six minutes was inconsequential. That he didn't score in the final 7:54 was not.
"He almost took as many shots as points he made," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who is now just one win away from his fourth Final Four, three wins away from his third national title. "When I look at the stat sheet, the 32 points is misleading because of the number of shots it took him to get to 32."
Fredette was questioned about his shot selection in the postgame press conference, presumably by somebody who has slept through much of the season. The 6-foot-2 guard from New York became a household name and Mountain West Conference phenomenon precisely because of his shot selection, or lack thereof. As Donovan said before the game and then again afterward, Fredette was always going to take shots -- good ones and crazy ones. What made him special at this level is his remarkable ability to make crazy ones.
All season, he did.
Against Florida, he mostly didn't.
"I didn't think they were necessarily bad, bad shots," Fredette responded when questioned about his shot selection, specifically late-game shot-selection. "I thought they were pretty good shots, but I just didn't happen to make them. ... If I would have made them, it would have been a different story."
|Held scoreless in overtime, BYU senior Jimmer Fredette reacts late in the Cougars' loss to Florida. (Getty Images)|
"It's hard to kind of put into words, really," Rose said. "I mean, there's been such a journey from his first day on campus and the expectations that he had and the expectations that we had for him."
Rose went on to detail how Fredette played on a team that won 27 games during his freshman year, and "he didn't start in one game," Rose said. "And then he comes into my office after his freshman year and says, 'Coach, I'm your point guard and I'll be your point guard next year, and I'll spend all summer working on everything I need to work on so I can run the program.' And the next year he's first-team all-Mountain West Conference; that's a hard thing to do. And the next year he goes back to work again in the summer, and he comes back and he's an All-American. And then he decides to take his name out of the NBA Draft [after his junior year], and he comes back, and to start this season he's on eight preseason All-American teams, and now our conversations are, 'OK. People believe you're good. Now you have to go be good.'
"You think of every season and the different challenges he had and the way he finished his career as being probably better than everyone thought he was when he started the year, and everyone thought he was pretty good when he started the year," Rose concluded while circling back to answer the initial question. "And then winning games. That's his legacy."
While Rose reflected from a stage, Fredette was back in the BYU locker room having a cut on his chin examined. He sat in a private room for 10 minutes, realized he's probably going to need stitches because of his collision with the hardwood, then emerged to speak to the media as a BYU Cougar one last time. With nine TV cameras pointed at his bandaged face, Fredette talked about his past and his future, his teammates and his desire to take two weeks and just rest. He smiled often, never made an excuse and swore he wasn't frustrated by the thought of what might've been had the roster BYU used to start 27-2 remained intact for a possible Final Four run.
"One more question for Jimmer," said the man in charge of clearing the locker room.
So one more questioned was asked and answered, and then two dozen reporters filed out while Fredette limped to a corner chair, his calf -- injured during the loss -- still clearly bothering him. He took a seat, took a deep breath and stared at the wall. He put his hands on his knees for a moment, then on his shoes. He unlaced them a little and slowly removed them -- first the left, then the right.
Arizona and Duke were playing out in Anaheim.
Butler and Wisconsin were playing here in New Orleans.
But Jimmer Fredette was barefoot and finished for the night.
For the season.
Forever as a college basketball superstar.