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BYU basketball notebook: Cougars want to get to the line

OKLAHOMA CITY — If there's one statistical category that could determine the outcome of today's first-round NCAA Tournament game between BYU and Florida, it's free-throw shooting.

And the Gators are very well aware of that. The Cougars are shooting a nation's-best 78 percent of their free throws. Florida shoots about 70 percent.

"We can't foul them at all," Florida forward Dan Werner said. "They're not a team that you want to send to the line."

The Cougars, however, plan to get there as much as possible. It's part of what they do and a big reason behind their success this season.

"We have to be aggressive, and we have to attack them in the paint, because if we can get to the free-throw line, we should have a pretty good shot," said Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette, who is making around 90 percent of his charity tosses this year and hit 35-of-36 in last week's Mountain West Conference tournament.

Also, because the Gators really only go six or seven deep, racking up fouls is likely to cause Florida to go deeper into its bench than normal.

"We need to go to the basket. We need to be aggressive," Fredette said.

"We need to see how they're calling the game, and hopefully we can get some calls and get on the free-throw line and get ourselves going from that point."

CHECKING IN ON ROSE: The national media took the opportunity on Wednesday to ask BYU coach Dave Rose more on his battle last summer with pancreatic cancer. Rose didn't really go into much detail, other than to say, "I know that I'm very fortunate to be able to do what I'm doing."

But guard Jackson Emery gave his take on the offseason crisis. "It was really hard this summer to see what coach Rose went through, but, at the same time, I think every player used that as a little motivation to get better and to focus on what we really want to accomplish and, you know, as hard as it was, it was a good thing for our team, too, because it brought us closer together."

ADDED PRESSURE ON JT: When the Cougars faced UNLV last week at the MWC tournament, many pointed out that Jonathan Tavernari ended his career never beating the Rebels in Las Vegas. Now, some are letting Tavernari know this is his last chance to win an NCAA Tournament game.

"I can't look at it that way," Tavernari said. "I have to look at it like it's just one more game, one more road game. Personally, I know I'm going to be playing basketball somewhere next year, so it's not like I'm looking at my last chance to step on a basketball court. If we all look at it as just another game where we have to play hard and have to play well, we'll be OK."

IMPRESSING WITH NUMBERS: If BYU's 29 wins didn't catch Florida's attention, the Cougars' 18-point average margin of victory and other numbers that indicate offensive efficiency have.

"They are a really smart team, and they execute really well," Florida forward Chandler Parsons said. "There is no doubt they are going to be one of our biggest defensive challenges for us all year long."

KNOWING JIMMER: While playing AAU basketball for the Albany City Rocks three years ago, Fredette faced two Florida players — Parsons and guard Erving Walker. Neither of the Gators remember Fredette well, however, and Parsons actually called Fredette's former teammate, Taylor Battle, at Penn State to get a little reminder.

"He told me how Jimmer's one of the strongest guards that he's ever played against."

Parsons then watched some BYU game film, which enforced that opinion. "He's the real deal. He's really good."

ONE MORE TIES THE MARK: If freshman Tyler Haws gets to the free-throw line Thursday and makes his first attempt, he'll tie BYU's all-time record for consecutive free throws made at 39 — set by Jimmer Fredette earlier this year. If Haws does not get to the line again this season, he won't get another shot to tie the mark until fall of 2012, after he returns from an LDS Church mission to the Philippines.

e-mail: jimr@desnews.com