Florida and UCLA have become familiar NCAA Tournament foes in recent years and their Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday ended the same as the previous three head-to-head contests, with a Florida victory. The Gators knocked off UCLA 79-68 to advance to the Elite 8.
Florida beat UCLA in the 2006 National Championship, then again in the 2007 Final Four. The Gators eliminated the Bruins in the second round in 2011 and once again ended UCLA's season this year. Michael Frazier got things going for the Gators, hitting three early three-pointers. He finished with 19 points to lead Florida while Scottie Wilbekin chipped in 13.
UCLA lost despite Kyle Anderson doing a little bit of everything. The Bruins were arguably the better team when Anderson was on the floor, but he was saddled by early foul trouble. It seemed anytime Anderson sat, the Gators made a run to build up a small lead. Anderson finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Florida held the advantage through much off the first half, thanks in large part to the early foul trouble for Anderson. The Gators made a run with Anderson on the bench, building a nine-point lead. The Bruins rallied back once Anderson came back on the floor, pulling within three points shortly after the under 4-minute media timeout. Florida gained some of its advantage back, scoring the final three points of the half to lead 36-30 at the break. Chris Walker accounted for those points, getting his own rebound on a missed free throw and connecting on a layup for the very unconventional three-point play.
The Gators built out their lead early in the second half, going up 50-39 with less than 16 minutes to play. Just when it seemed like the top seed might begin to pull away, the Bruins reeled off an 8-0 run to cut the lead to four. The comeback included an emphatic dunk by Norman Powell.
UCLA eventually pulled within one, but the Bruins couldn't get any closer. Anderson hit the bench for a rest midway through the second half and the Gators once again took advantage. Florida reeled off a 10-0 run to take a 66-55 lead with 5:34 to play. Wilbekin came up big for the Gators during the game-sealing run, hitting a pair of impossible layups.
And then the dagger.
With the win, Florida advances to the Elite 8 where they will play No. 11 Dayton. The Flyers punched their ticket to the Elite 8 with a 82-72 win against Stanford.