The four seniors on the Florida Gators basketball squad have never been ousted before Elite Eight in their careers. With their 79-68 victory over the UCLA Bruins, they’re assured of nothing less. It was a back-and-forth game, but in the end Florida came away with their 29th straight win. The Gators now move to 35-2 on the season, tying the school-record for most wins in a season with the 2007 squad. Michael Frazier II led the Gators with 19 points, including five from three-point range. With those five three’s, Frazier passed Lee Humphrey with UF-record for made threes in a season with 115.
It was a frenetic beginning to the first half with UCLA and Florida running the floor back and forth. Between the under-16 and under-12 time outs, the Gators hit four three pointers. Frazier hit three from downtown to lead Florida with nine points at the half and Scottie Wilbekin added the other trey. But the pace slowed down a bit as both offenses struggled. A positive note for Florida? UCLA had just one offensive rebound in the first half and were outrebounded by the Gators 21-13. That lone offensive rebound happened with under two minutes left in the half. Florida took a 36-30 lead over UCLA into the half.
The Gators came out swinging in the second half, hitting their first six shots. But UCLA quickly made a game out of it, cutting into the Florida lead. The Bruins were only down one with about 10 minutes left in the game. The Gators and Bruins both struggled offensively in the second half, especially in those last 10 minutes. UCLA didn’t score for five minutes, allowing Scottie Wilbekin to finally get going in the final minutes. Wilbekin struggled most of the game, but ended up scoring 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half. In the game’s final seconds, Florida sealed it with lob passes down the court for easy lay-ins and dunks.
In the end, it wasn’t Florida’s seniors who took the game over. It was the underclassmen. Freshman Kasey Hill and Chris Walker both had really good games. Hill showed his passing acuity with 10 assists on the game to go along with six points and six rebounds. One of those dimes went to Walker, who made a ridiculous shot. Walker finished the game with seven points, three rebounds (all offensive), and one huge block. Sophomore Michael Frazier II finally found his stroke, scoring 19 points on 5-8 three-point shooting. He also had six rebounds and three assists. Redshirt sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith also had a really good game, notching 10 points, six rebounds, and four assists to go along with some great hustle plays.
Patric Young and Casey Prather were in foul trouble for most of the game, so they didn’t have much of an impact. But Will Yeguete had another strong game, scoring eight points with seven rebounds. Wilbekin had a tough night shooting, going 5-13, including 2-8 from beyond the arc. Young scored only four points and three rebounds, while Prather had 12 points, three rebounds, two blocks, and one assist in limited minutes.
Florida’s defense did a solid job on a UCLA team averaging nearly 82 points per game. They also bottled up 6’9″ do everything guard/forward Kyle Anderson. Anderson had only 11 points, but still got 9 boards, five assists, and two steals. The Gators held the Bruins to 42.2% shooting, including 16.7% from three-point range. Florida outrebounded an extremely lengthy UCLA team 40-30 and also blocked five shots. Jordan Adams led the way for the Bruins with 17 points.
The Gators offense had an up-and-down night, but they ended up shooting 50% for the game. Florida also hit 8-21 from downtown, good for 38.1%. Their free throw shooting was pretty decent, sinking 13-18, or 72.2%. Possibly the most impressive stat was the Gators unselfish play. Florida assisted 22 times on 29 made shots.
The top-seeded Gators will face the cinderella 11-seed Dayton Flyers in the Elite Eight for a chance to go to the Final Four. The game will start at 6:09 pm on Saturday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.