Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
AT THE BUZZER
Florida 79, UCLA 68
WHAT HAPPENED: Sophomore guard Michael Frazier was on fire from the outset and the top-ranked, top-seeded Gators used his big start to build a lead on the 20th-ranked Bruins that stood for the better part of their NCAA Tournament South Region semifinal showdown at FedExForum. The win was UF’s 29th straight and advanced the Gators to the Elite for the fourth straight year, the only program in the country to achieve that feat. Frazier finished with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, while senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin added 13 points, including a couple timely baskets reminiscent of his late-game heroics last week against Pittsburgh, when the Bruins went on a late run in this game of runs by both teams.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Gators (35-2) will play 11th-seeded Dayton (26-10), out of Atlantic-10 Conference, in the South Region title game Saturday, with the winner advancing to the Final Four next weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Flyers, the Cinderella of the tournament, rang up their third upset of the tournament in the early game, beating 10th-seeded Stanford 82-72 to claim their first Elite Eight trip since 1984. Last week, Dayton ousted sixth-seeded Ohio State and third-seeded Syracuse in final-possession nail-biters. For UF, it’ll mark the eighth trip to the Elite Eight, all but one under Coach Billy Donovan. Florida, losers in three straight regional finals (against Butler in 2011, Louisville in ’12 and Michigan in ’13), will try to punch its fifth Final Four ticket and fourth under Donovan.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Florida bench was sensational, bailing out a starting rotation saddled with foul trouble (specifically, Patric Young and Casey Prather). The UF backups, led by forward Dorian Finney-Smith's 10 points and six rebounds, plus a spectacular 10-assist, six-rebound game from point guard Kasey Hill, outscored the Bruins 23-11, with freshman center Chris Walker providing some huge points and minutes on his way to scoring a career-high seven points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in just six minutes.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: Hill's 10 assists were the most by a Gator since Wilbekin dished 10 at Auburn on Feb. 2, 2013. It helped Florida finish with 22 assists, equalling a season high set March 8 against Kentucky. That was 10 more than the 12 assists tallied by the Bruins, who came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in assists per game at 17.2.
SUBPLOT: The Gators continued their recent NCAA Tournament dominance over UCLA, college basketball’s dominant program in the 1960s and ‘70s. UF improved to 4-0 against UCLA in the tournament since defeating the Bruins in the 2006 national championship game.