"I don't think we played 40 minutes of our greatest, but I do think we played 40 minutes of our hardest. We were missing too many easy layups, too many free throws. We could've played a lot better. This wasn't a great game - but in terms of effort, I think we played 40 minutes."
This game was much closer than the final score would indicate. It was a see-saw battle most of the way, in fact, with seven ties and two lead changes and UCLA was within a point at 66-65 with 1:17 to play. . . .
But the Bruins made a series of seemingly innocuous mistakes that turned into glaring errors when put under the microscope of a close, well-played game in a pressure-packed environment and sent the Bruins home with no more games to play this season.
The most glaring misfortune came when No. 2-seeded Florida threw an inbound pass toward half court with 1:17 to play and UCLA guard Malcolm Lee took a chance on trying to make a steal. He missed, Florida's Erving Walker caught it, dribbled to the top of the key and swished a three-point, back-breaking basket that put Florida up 69-65 with 1:14 to play.
"Dumb decisions, just little mistakes on my behalf," Lee said. "They took advantage of me gambling at the end. It’s a 50-50 situation and I felt that happened the whole game. Every tiny little mistake we did, they capitalized on it. That’s the kind of game we were dealing with."
Without Malcolm for the season UCLA does not got near the Tourney. Without Malcolm in this game, his mistake does not matter. Malcolm was classy. The other key after the jump.
There was a second key moment when UCLA was victim of some bad or questionable calls from the refs. Josh Smith took the high road and disagrees with this. Maybe the first one was a block, the second one no way it is not a foul. Anyway, here is what the OCR said:
The Bruins continued to struggle at the foul line and were set back by a pair of no-calls that led to back-to-back Gator 3-point jumpers late in the second half.
With the score tied 55-55, Bruin center Joshua Smith went in for a dunk and appeared to be fouled by Florida forward Chandler Parsons, who swatted the ball away. No foul, however, was called and the Gators dashed down court and hit a 3-point jumper.
On the ensuing possession Smith again missed in the paint, crashing to the floor. Again no call. And again the Gators stuck a 3-point jumper, this time courtesy of reserve forward Erik Murphy, left wide open at the top of the arc, for a 61-55 Florida lead.
The Smith non-call and the Lee gamble and aftermath were the key moments that turned a very close game.
While I am not sure I agree entirely with this, there is some merit to it from the clowns over at Bleacher Report:
The squad played their hearts out and left every thing they could muster on the court. There is not a single aspect of their game that can be criticized or pointed to as a reason for coming up short against a red-hot Gator team.
The fact is, UCLA played great. . . .
[Listing all five starters as playing great and closing with:]Lazeric Jones was beating double teams on the dribble and dishing out assists.
The whole team contributed admirably.
Of course Lazeric despite several nice assists (5) also had the worst turnover of the game with his only turnover late in game and only managed 17 minutes while in foul trouble. Anderson was worse with 23 minutes no points and as many turnovers as assists. UCLA was outplayed in two spots (the bench was out scored 15-2) and at the PG position, where Evering Walker won the game for the Gators:
Walker scored 10 of Florida's final 12 points. He made four free throws in the final 33 seconds, sinking both ends of 1-and-1s. He made a driving bank shot, a can't-believe-that-went-in prayer that came after the diminutive point guard -- he's generously listed at 5-foot-8 -- slammed into the belly of 6-foot-10, 325-pound center Josh Smith.
Or if you want to look at from the other side, UCLA lost it to Walker. As Lee said:
"I felt this was a game we should've won," Lee said. "It's just really hard when the whole team goes out there and gives it our all. We could've played a lot better, but there was no question our intensity was there. It just hurts when you go 150 percent and still come up short..."
No, it was Florida (28-7) that came up short, all 68 inches worth of Walker pushing the Gators past UCLA after backcourt mate Kenny Boynton went down with an ankle sprain with 4:24 left in the game.
Walker had 21 points, including three 3-pointers and 8-of-10 free throws, while Bruin junior point guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson totaled just four points in 40 minutes, all four by Jones.
If Honeycutt is likely gone, UCLA got some good news in the post game press conference (emphasis mine):
Smith confirmed after the game that he is returning to Westwood for his sophomore season.
"I am not going anywhere," Smith said. "I am staying here.". . .
UCLA sophomore forward Reeves Nelson, who notched his 14th double-double of the season and his second in as many NCAA tournament games with 16 points and 11 rebounds, will be back for his junior season.
"Every individual will make whatever they want in the offseason and that depends on their personal dedication," Nelson said. "I know myself I'm going to work hard and I think if everybody does that, we're going to have a really good season next year."
The right words from Nelson. Now if Malcolm stays, we are looking good for the future. As Jon Gold concluded:
There will be plenty of second-guessing, even though the future looks bright.
Go Bruins and STAY LEE!!