BY: John Mamola
The Florida Gators are headed to the elite eight as they defeat the UCLA Bruins 79-68 in the round of sixteen. The 29th straight win for the Gators also marks head coach Billy Donovan’s third win in the NCAA tournament over UCLA as the Bruins have never defeated Donovan’s squad.
The Gators defense has been one of the nation's stingiest defenses all season, holding opponents to an average of 57.5 points a game that puts them third nationally. UCLA however came into the match up against Florida as one of the higher scoring teams still alive in the batch of sixteen scoring 81.5 points per game.
The conflict between the two was experienced early and often as there were six lead changes in the first six minutes of the game. The Gators began to take hold of the lead on the deep shot of Michael Frazier who hit three consecutive three point shots as the Gators were able to jump out to a 36-30 lead by halftime. Frazier’s nine point made up for the combined three points by Scottiw Wilbekin and Patric Young.
The Gators came out roaring in the second half as they leaped out to eleven point lead on a 7-0 run lead by the deep ball of Michael Frazier. UCLA responded with a 16-6 run of their own to close within one of Florida, but senior guard Scottie Wilbekin who struggled for the majority of the game came through in the end. The SEC Player Of The Year scoring 10 of his 13 points in the closing six minutes of the ballgame at key moments when UCLA seemed to be regaining some momentum.
The Gators closed out the game on a 24-12 run in the final ten minutes to pull away from the upset minded UCLA Bruins and advance to their fourth straight trip to the elite eight.
Frazier finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds points and the Gators bench chipped in 23 points as well. Casey Prather added 12 points as the Gators ruled the boards despite a significant height advantage for UCLA by outrebounding the Bruins 40-30.
Florida will play the eleventh seeded Dayton Flyers on Saturday night at a time to be determined on Friday. You can catch all the action on WDAE (620am / 95.3FM).