They say that defense wins championships. That spelled bad news for the Bruins.
In a battle between the Bruins high powered offense and the Gators tough defense, defense won the night. For the fourth time in their last 8 NCAA tournaments, the U.C.L.A. Bruins were eliminated by the Florida Gators, this time in the Sweet 16 by a score of 79-68. The Gators move on to their 4th consecutive Elite 8 with only #11 seed Dayton standing between them and the Final Four. The Bruins will just go back home. Again.
You can see the box score and stats here.
The game started out a bit sloppy on both sides, but the Bruins size and athleticism and some good shooting by the Wears got U.C.L.A. off to a good start. A David Wear 3 had the Bruins up 11-8 just over 5 minutes in. Fouls then became an big problem for the Bruins when Kyle Anderson picked up his 2nd foul on a questionable call on what looked like a clean steal. Anderson sat and Norman Powell curiously sat with him, and the Bruins 3 point lead quickly became an 8 point deficit when the Gators went on a 3 point tear. With the game slipping out of control, Steve Alford brought Anderson back in around the 9 minute mark and he promptly hit a basket to stop the bleeding.
The Bruins kept things even from there behind some tough defense by Norman Powell, and Zach Lavine and Kyle Anderson started going to the hoop to create some offense. Florida's inside game and first half rebounding advantage (22-15) protected their lead and the Gators went to the locker room at half with a 36-30 lead. The Bruins shot a very solid 44% from the field, but the deliberate pace by Florida and their defensive pressure slowed the Bruin offense. Four Bruins, Anderson, D Wear, Jordan Adams, and Tony Parker each had 2 fouls at the half.
Florida came out of the half on fire, hitting their first 6 shots including another pair of 3's by Michael Frazier, who was 5-8 from downtown, to build an 11 point lead. Adams got the next 5 Bruin points himself before Kyle picked up his third foul with 14 and a half minutes left. This time Anderson stayed in and the Bruins held steady, with Anderson getting back to back baskets plus a free throw and a drive to the hoop to make it a one point game at 56-55. That's as close as the Bruins would get.
Florida went on a 10-0 run, much of it with Anderson getting a rest to open a 66-55 lead, and their tenacious defense forced the Bruins into difficult shots the rest of the way and their offense failed them. Scottie Wilbekin found his game during the run and with the Bruins desperately playing catch up in the final minutes, Florida got some easy baskets and hit their free throws to close out the game.
In the end, the Bruins never had an answer for the Gators defensive pressure. They could neither control the pace of the game or generate a consistent half court offense. Despite U.C.L.A. having what many experts said were more talented players, Florida's preparation and execution were the clear difference tonight.
This was the Bruins final game of the season, and for David Wear, Travis Wear, and Kyle Anderson, the final game of their Bruin careers. We'll wait to see what Zach Lavine and Jordan Adams decide about their futures. And for Bruin fans, we'll have another year to look back at the Tournament and ask what could have been. A lot of excitement and optimism in Bruin Nation during the last week ends in a below average performance that leaves Bruin fans feeling empty and unfulfilled.
Fire away with your thoughts.