Recap: Florida vs. UCLA
Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Another Florida-UCLA meeting in the NCAA Tournament went the way of the Gators.
Michael Frazier II made five 3-pointers and scored a team-high 19 points and top-seeded Florida ousted the Bruins for the fourth time in the past eight years with a tense 79-68 victory in a familiar Sweet 16 showdown.
Florida has now reached the Elite Eight four straight years, and while the previous three all ended in defeats, the Gators get another shot at a Final Four appearance on Saturday against upstart Dayton. The 11th-seeded Flyers beat Stanford, 82-72, in Thursday's other South Region matchup at FedExForum.
"They're a great team. Everybody is at this point in the season, and so we got to be locked in and ready because it's going to be a battle," Gators senior guard Scottie Wilbekin said.
The nightcap was a tight affair despite what the final score may indicate and the fact that Gators (35-2) never trailed in the second half.
UCLA (28-9) was within one with 10 minutes to go before SEC Player of the Year Wilbekin stepped up and scored eight of his 13 points in the final six-plus minutes to help Florida pull away for its 29th consecutive win.
"That's what you expect out of your senior point guard. He's been here in the Sweet 16 four years. He made big shots," UCLA's Kyle Anderson said of Wilbekin.
Casey Prather added 12 points and Dorian Finney-Smith netted 10 in the win.
Jordan Adams led the fourth-seeded Bruins with 17 points, while Travis Wear had 14 for the Pac-12 Tournament champions, who also lost to Florida in the 2006 title game, the 2007 Final Four and the 2011 round-of-32.
A Chris Walker layup prior to the first official stoppage of the second half stretched Florida's lead to 50-39, forcing first-year Bruins head coach Steve Alford to call a timeout and settle down his troops.
The strategy worked, as UCLA scored the next seven points out of the break and pulled within 56-55 on Norman Powell's take to the hole at the midway point.
The Bruins, though, suddenly went cold, missing seven consecutive shots during the Gators' game-deciding 10-0 run that Wilbekin capped with six quick points.
First, the UCLA defense backed off Wilbekin along the right wing. The streaky guard, who was 1-for-7 from the perimeter at the time, settled his feet and drained a dagger 3-pointer, then drove to his right, split two defenders and got a tough runner to fall while being fouled.
The three-point play gave Florida a 66-55 cushion with 5:34 remaining, and after the Bruins cut the deficit to five down the stretch, Wilbekin kept them at bay with a jaw-dropping, off-balanced fallaway from the baseline.
Wear and Adams missed 3-point tries on UCLA's next two possessions to end any chance at a comeback.
The Gators stuck to their usual script of slowly coming out of the gates before finding their rhythm.
They missed their first four shots and were trailing 14-11 early on before a flurry of 3-pointers gave them a lead they never relinquished. Wilbekin began the surge with a deep make and Frazier kicked in a pair the next two times down to give Florida a 20-16 cushion with 11 1/2 minutes left in the half.
The margin reached nine, 28-19, before UCLA made it a one-possession game again with seven consecutive points, the last three coming when Zach LaVine scored over Patric Young while being fouled.
The Bruins, though, made just one field goal over the final six minutes, and Walker closed the opening half scoring with a putback off his own missed free throw for a 36-30 Florida lead.Game Notes
Florida defeated Albany and Pittsburgh to reach the Sweet 16, while UCLA got
past a pair of double-digit seeds in Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin ... Florida
made half of its shots (29-of-58) ... Kasey Hill recorded 10 of the Gators' 22
assists ... Florida owned a 40-30 rebounding advantage ... UCLA shot just 3-
of-18 from 3-point range.