NCAA TOURNAMENT – SOUTH REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Florida Gators 79, UCLA Bruins 68
Jordan Adams (UCLA) – 17 points
Travis Wear (UCLA) – 14 points
Michael Frazier II (Florida) – 19 points
You can’t fault UCLA for not trying in their regional semifinal game in Memphis on Thursday night.
For three-fourths of the contest with top-seeded and top-ranked Florida, the Bruins hung right in there with the Gators as the game was tied with roughly ten minutes to go.
It was those last ten minutes, however, that ultimately killed UCLA and ended their season as while they didn’t play terribly, Billy Donovan’s SEC champions asserted themselves in their pressure defense and in the perimeter game while Steve Alford’s band of Bruins didn’t shoot well enough and made too many mistakes.
Their shooting just 17% from the three-point line, making just three shots from behind the arc, was a huge factor in this Sweet Sixteen match.
While Frazier, who led the SEC in threes, made more shots from there – five – than the entire Bruins squad, was likewise a major factor in Florida’s 79-68 defeat of UCLA at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.
As was the battle of the boards, which the Gators won 35-29.
Scottie Wilbekin, the SEC’s Most Valuable Player in both the regular season and their conference tournament, was another key factor as the point guard scored ten of his 13 points in the second half.
The moment that I knew that Florida was going to win happened with 2:35 left in the game when Wilbekin, while heavily covered, threw up a shot from nine feet out that banked high off the glass and went in.
That’s when I thought, “It’s over. We lost.”
Which grew more prevalent when the Bruins badly missed four three-point attempts over a two minute, 12 second span, selling their fate for this season and propelling the Gators (35-2) into the Elite Eight, where they will meet uber-Cinderella Dayton on Saturday.
Worst of all, this latest Florida win was their fourth – all in the postseason – over UCLA in the past nine years as these Gators continued to be the Bruins’ official Achilles’ heel.
Norman Powell picked the worst time to have an off night as he made three of eight shots and nearly fouled out.
Kyle Anderson, though he led everyone with his nine rebounds, could have done much better as he was only four-for-11 from the floor and picked up two quick fouls early in the game, which forced Alford to put him on the bench and which Florida took advantage of as they went on a run that gave them a solid lead.
Mind you, the effort was certainly there as while watching the game on TV, I remembered a scene from the hit movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
It was when Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) told Katie Leung, who played his crush Cho Chang, after she mentioned how if Cedric Diggory, played by a guy who would go on to become Edward Cullen from the Twilight films, Robert Pattinson, knew the magic that Harry was teaching her, he wouldn’t have died the previous year in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
“Cedric did know this stuff; he was really good. It was just, Voldemort was better.”
Now I don’t necessarily think that UCLA was really good on Thursday, though they weren’t bad and did give an excellent effort.
But the Gators, who won their 29th straight game, the best in school history, were most definitely better than the Bruins, who finished the season at 28-9 and, because they didn’t quit, have nothing to be ashamed of.
As for the future of this team and this program, namely who will leave for the NBA early (besides Anderson, who is virtually a lock to go) among other things…
You’ll have to find out what my views on that are on Monday, when my official review of the season appears on this site.