Top-ranked and No. 1-seeded Florida is going to its fourth consecutive Elite Eight in the NCAA basketball tournament.
UCLA is going home to Westwood for the fourth time since 2006 after meeting the Gators in the NCAA tournament, this time getting beat, 79-68.
The Gators did exactly what they needed to do in a South Regional semifinal at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. They beat the Bruins on the boards, limited the damage inflicted by UCLA star Kyle Anderson, and scored from outside.
Florida outscored UCLA from three-point range, 24-9, led by Michael Frazier II, who made five of eight three-pointers and scored a game-high 19 points.
The Gators also held a 40-30 rebounding edge in winning their 29th consecutive game.
Anderson scored 11 points, had a team-high nine rebounds and finished with five assists but was slowed by foul trouble and a tough Florida defense throughout the game.
And so the Gators and Coach Billy Donovan continued their mastery of UCLA, eliminating the Bruins from the NCAA tournament for the fourth time since 2006.
Florida, the top-seeded team overall in the NCAA tournament, improved to 35-2. The Gators haven't lost since December.
UCLA finished its first season under Coach Steve Alford with a record of 28-9.
Florida will meet Dayton in the South Regional final on Saturday. Dayton, seeded 11th in the region, defeated Stanford earlier today.
Florida pulls away and UCLA reels the Gators back in.
But the Bruins are running out of time.
Florida leads, 70-63, with 1:35 left in regulation.
Scottie Wilbekin has found his scoring touch in crunch time. He has seven points in the last four minutes, 12 in the game.
UCLA needs some three-point baskets, but the Bruins are only three-of-16 from three-point range tonight.
Scottie Wilbekin, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, is looking like it.
He hit a three-pointer and then came back with another bucket plus a free throw to give Florida a 66-55 lead with about five and a half minutes left in regulation.
Wilbekin has 10 points.
Florida has scored seven consecutive points since UCLA cut the Gators' lead to a point.
Florida now leads, 63-55, with 6:11 left in regulation.
Kyle Anderson is back in for UCLA, which is a good thing for the Bruins, since Florida has outscored UCLA by 14 with him on the bench.
A smart coaching move by UCLA Coach Steve Alford.
With UCLA trailing, 58-55, and 9:07 left in regulation, he pulled Kyle Anderson from the game.
Anderson looked a little winded and he has three fouls.
Good call making sure he didn't pick up his fourth because he was tired.
Florida did a great job keeping the ball out of Kyle Anderson's hands with double teams in the first half, but the 6-9 sophomore is starting to find his groove.
And so is UCLA, which has cut Florida's lead to a point, 56-55, with about 10 minutes left in regulation.
Anderson has 11 points and eight rebounds.
UCLA is doing a much better job on the boards in the second half.
Outrebounded, 21-14, in the first half, the Bruins hold a 7-5 edge in the second half.
With 11:16 left in regulation, Florida leads, 56-50.
The difference: The Gators are seven of 17 from three-point range and the Bruins are three of 13.
UCLA scored seven consecutive points to cut Florida's lead to 50-46, but Florida scored four in a row before UCLA's Jordan Adams fed Tony Parker with a nifty pass that resulted in lay-in.
With 12 minutes left in regulation, Florida leads, 54-48.
For UCLA, bad news followed by good news followed by more bad news.
Florida had taken its biggest lead of the game, 50-30.
But then Jordan Adams scored on a drive and came back on the next possession and hit a three-pointer.
Just like that, Florida's lead was trimmed to 50-44.
However, on Florida's next possession, UCLA's Kyle Anderson was called for a reach-in foul.
That's Anderson's third foul and there's still 14:30 to play in regulation.
Adams leads UCLA with 12 points.
UCLA needs to clamp down on Michael Frazier II.
The Southeastern Conference's top three-point shooter is killing the Bruins from behind the stripe.
Frazier is five-of-six from three-point range, for a game-high 15 points.
He hit three consecutive three-pointers in the first half to help Florida pull away, and when UCLA pulled within three points early in the second half, he hit two more.
We have a Kyle Anderson-Norman Powell combo.
After Anderson drew an offensive foul on one end, Powell dribbled coast to coast and dunked over Patric Young, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.
UCLA trails, 38-35.
Chris Walker has been a difference-maker for Florida as the Gators have taken a 36-30 lead over UCLA at the half of a South Regional semifinal in the NCAA tournament.
And who would have thought that?
Walker averaged 5.1 minutes in 15 games for the Gators this season after making his debut on Feb. 4.
Walker, a 6-10 freshman, averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds this season.
He has five points and three offensive rebounds in the first half against UCLA.
Everyone knew he had that kind of potential, though. Walker was a McDonald's All-American in high school.
Florida leads UCLA, 36-30, at halftime of an NCAA South Regional semifinal at FedExForum in Memphis.
The Gators, winners of 28 consecutive games and the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, are sharing the ball well and had UCLA in foul trouble much of the first half.
Florida has 11 assists on 13 field-goals, and the Gators, who had been struggling with outside shooting in previous tournament games, have made five three-point baskets.
UCLA has three starters with two fouls -- Kyle Anderson, David Wear and Jordan Adams -- plus reserve Tony Parker, who picked up his two in one minute 10 seconds.
Anderson picked up his quickly, too, in the first six minutes of the game.
The Bruins also already have seven turnovers. They average 10 a game, and had only three in their last game, a win over Stephen F. Austin.
Florida also has a 21-14 edge in rebounding.
Florida, and foul trouble, have all but taken Kyle Anderson out of the game.
Anderson, UCLA's No. 2 scorer, has four points in the first half -- and his baskets were scored about eight minutes apart.
With 3:45 remaining in the first half, Florida leads UCLA, 31-26, and has the Bruins in foul trouble.
Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and David Wear all have two personal fouls. UCLA has fouled nine times; Florida six.
Patric Young, the Gators' 6-9 senior center, is the only Florida player with two fouls.
David Wear has seven points to lead UCLA. Zach LaVine has five points.
Florida guard Michael Frazier II leads all scorers with nine points on three-of-four three-point shooting.
Let me preface this by saying I still don't think Zach LaVine is anywhere close to NBA ready -- though he is rated by some folks as an NBA lottery pick -- but, wow, he is very athletic.
LaVine's driving bank shot over Patric Young pulled UCLA back with striking distance of Florida with 6:11 left in the first half.
Young, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year, also picked up a foul on the play and LaVine made the free throw. Florida's lead was trimmed to 28-26.
Zach LaVine just showed why some NBA folks are apparently high on him, with a quick cross-over dribble and an explosive move to the basket for a short bank shot.
His basket cut Florida's lead over UCLA to 28-21 with 7:15 remaining in the first half.
Both teams are shooting 50%, but Florida has two more field goals and has made five of 10 three-pointers.
Kyle Anderson is back in the game with two personal fouls.
Florida leads UCLA, 26-18, with a little more than eight minutes left in the first half.
UCLA Coach Steve Alford is taking a chance with Anderson back in, but the Bruins clearly need him.
It took Tony Parker another minute to pick up his second personal foul -- this one on the offensive end.
It took UCLA sophomore Tony Parker 10 seconds to pick up his first personal foul.
Bryce Alford also now in for UCLA, along with Zach LaVine.
Florida leads, 20-16, with 10:40 left in the first half -- having scored its last 12 points on three-pointers.
UCLA led, 11-8, when Scottie Wilbekin hit from long distance. Then Michael Frazier II, who had been struggling in the Gators' two tournament games, hit a trio of three-pointers.
Florida is five of eight from three-point range. UCLA is two of four; David Wear is two for two and leads the Bruins with six points.
Kyle Anderson just picked up his second foul -- about six minutes into the game -- on a call by an official behind the play, all the way across the court, about 30 feet away.
The score is tied again, 14-14, with a little more than 12 minutes left in the first half.
UCLA and Florida are tied, 8-8, with 15:20 remaining in the first half.
Both teams are playing fast and loose.
Florida's press doesn't seem to be bothering UCLA, but the Bruins already have two turnovers -- they had three all last game against Stephen F. Austin.
Jordan Adams leads UCLA with four points. Reserve Dorian Finney-Smith -- it didn't take Florida Coach Billy Donovan long to get him in the game -- has five points for the Gators.
And no, Kyle Anderson does not remind me of Magic Johnson.
The game is underway in Memphis.
And which one of these teams is known best for defense?
Florida's first three possessions end in two blocked shots and a turnover.
The blocks were by Travis Wear and Jordan Adams. The steal was by David Wear.
Adams scored the game's first points for UCLA.
A little primer for UCLA fans, just so they know what the Bruins are up against.
Florida, 34-2, is the NCAA tournament's overall top-seeded team.
The Gators have won 28 consecutive games. Their only losses came on the road -- last year: on Dec. 2 to Connecticut, 65-64, and on Nove. 12 to Wisconsin, 59-53.
Guard Scottie Wilbekin, a 6-2 senior, was the Southeastern Conference player of the year. Center Patric Young, a 6-9 senior, was the SEC defensive player of the year. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6-8 sophomore, was the conference's sixth man of the year.
And somehow Coach Billy Donovan received enough credit to be coach of the year.
Tonight's game marks the fourth time UCLA and Florida basketball teams have met in the NCAA tournament since 2006.
Florida has won the first three -- just in case you hadn't heard or read that elsewhere this week -- defeating the Bruins in the 2006 national title game, the 2007 Final Four and in the round of 32 in 2011.
The programs also had a rematch looming last year in a regional, but UCLA lost its opener against Minnesota.
Florida later knocked Minnesota out of the tournament.
The Gators' tournament wins against UCLA were all against Bruins teams guided by Ben Howland. This is the first time Florida Coach Billy Donovan has matched wits against Steve Alford.
Pulling back the curtain on UCLA basketball:
There's a great read by reporter David Wharton in Thursday's Los Angeles Times Sports section on the Alford family: Coach Steve, basketball-playing sons Kory and Bryce, plus mom Tanya and sister Kayla.
You can read it here.
Included is a telling scene from UCLA's NCAA tournament opener against Tulsa. Bryce, a freshman who is one of the team's biggest contributors off the bench, tries a couple of running shots in the lane, misses both, and dad, er, his coach, barks at him:
"That's not your game. You're good at the dribble-drive pull-up."
Bryce shoots him a snarl, but a while later, Bryce is driving toward the hoop and then pulls up and sinks a jump shot -- just as his father had requested.
Then it was dad's turn to shoot son a look.
The article also describes how brotherly competition between older brother Kory and the younger Bryce developed over the years.
Kory now rides the UCLA bench, but he's more interested in learning how to coach anyway.
As for mom and sister, "They've been raised on the game just like we have," Kory says.
Again, a worthwhile read.
It is about an hour before tipoff at the FedExForum in Memphis, where UCLA meets nemisis Florida in an NCAA South Regional semifinal at 6:45 p.m. PDT.
Times reporter Chris Foster, who is on site covering the game, says UCLA Coach Steve Alford had a very candid comment about the Bruins' chances against a Florida program that has three NCAA tournament victories against UCLA since 2006.
“If the game is in the 50s, that’s probably not good for UCLA,” he said.
He might have added, if the game is in the 70's, that's probably not good for Florida.
The matchup is of contrasting styles.
The No. 1-seeded Gators (34-2) are a physical, defensively solid team. The Bruins (28-8) want to push the pace.
“A lot’s been made of Florida’s defense and a lot’s been made of our offense,” Alford said. “I think our defense is probably better than advertised, and I know Florida’s offense is probably better than advertised.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun