Loyd shines bright in biggest moment


OKLAHOMA CITY -- The packet of media clips for the Brigham Young team in the NCAA Tournament is 34 pages, with stories about the Cougars on the front and back of most of them.

There might be more about Jimmer Fredette than Tom Clancy wrote about Jack Ryan. I don't yet know Jimmer's special toy as a toddler or his favorite color or if he too thought the ending of "No Country for Old Men" stunk, but I'm only through Page 19.

You won't find much in the packet about Michael Loyd Jr. He is mentioned in at least one game story. Maybe another. Maybe not.

BYU finally won an NCAA game Thursday after eight consecutive losses and seven in the first round, and it can thank the guy nobody seems to know much about for finally living another day in the madness.

Loyd is the sophomore guard from Palo Verde High who played the best game of his young college career on the sport's biggest stage, scoring 26 points in BYU's 99-92 double overtime win against Florida at the Ford Center.

Lucky. Resilient. You can use both words when describing why the seventh-seeded Cougars advanced to a second-round West Regional game against Kansas State on Saturday, how they grew a second-half lead to 13 points and watched it disappear, how every soul from Provo was breathless as the Gators missed shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime that would have won it, how BYU's depth proved too much for Florida when extra time arrived.

Which is where a certain explosive reserve guard comes into the picture.

"It feels good," Loyd said, "to know I can contribute."

BYU plays fast all the time. It plays faster when Loyd is in the game. He scored all six of his team's points in the first overtime and scored 10 straight in one first-half stretch. His previous scoring high was 19. His previous high in minutes was 33. He played 35 Thursday.

It's one of the best things about this tournament, to watch a kid who averaged only 4.6 points over 34 games break out and make all the difference. To have his one shining moment.

There isn't much BYU doesn't run through Fredette, who had one of those games where he scored 37 and it seemed like 17. But a major reason the Cougars advanced is that during those few minutes when they were able to rest their star, they didn't lose anything with Loyd.

"He is very, very aggressive," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "You're chasing Fredette around for 35 seconds on defense, and now (Loyd) comes in and this guy is coming at you at full speed. It makes it really, really difficult.

"People might be surprised at the number of points he scored, but I wasn't surprised at his aggressiveness. We talked a lot about it going into the game."

Who knows what happens now with BYU. Donovan called the game the most physical his team had played all season, one in which the Gators had 20 offensive rebounds and dominated the Cougars on the boards.

Kansas State is more physical than Florida and unquestionably a better rebounding team. The Wildcats won in a waltz against North Texas while BYU needed 50 minutes to advance.

Advantage, Kansas State.

"Everyone who watches basketball knows (Kansas State) will create some real problems for us," Cougars coach Dave Rose said. "I don't think we can count on scoring 99 points to win. We needed all 99 today. But I have a lot of confidence in my guys."

One of his guys made such a difference Thursday, he might have earned himself a media clip or two in the packet.

Michael Loyd Jr. was nails.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

 

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