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Having the Blues in Memphis: Post-Game Thoughts on UCLA's Basketball Loss to Florida

It was two rosters of entirely different players, an entirely new coaching staff in Blue and Gold, and yet, it was the same result against Florida: Billy Donovan continues his perfect run against the Bruins in the NCAA tournament and advances to the Elite Eight while UCLA goes home.

Kevin C. Cox

Talk about a bummer. As I write this, waiting in the airport in Memphis, waiting for my flight back to D.C., it strikes me that it's an oddly appropriate place to have the blues.  After all, this is Memphis.  But now is not the time for post season big thoughts, but the rather the unfortunate truth that more than saying goodbye to the season, we're saying goodbye to Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine.  Ugh.

But on to the game.  Bill Plaschke, of all people, writes a somewhat sympathetic article.  However he can’t resist a truthful dig or two and still manages to screw up the facts:

The Bruins have a player who could soon be like Wilbekin — his name is Kyle Anderson, but the giant point guard was inexplicably on the bench during that Gators' 10-0 late run, and now he's going to the NBA.

The Bruins have other players who could also grow into a Wilbekin kind of leader, Norman Powell or Jordan Adams, but they are both sophomores [sic Powell is a junior] who have never played a role that big.

This was Thursday's story, and the story of the end of UCLA's season. They are talented, but not yet tough enough. They are skilled but not yet savvy enough. They are good, but not yet good enough, but by this time next season, that could all change.

. . .

"We know the Sweet 16 doesn't mean anything at UCLA, we know we have to get back to work," Parker said.

Junior guard Norman Powell did an excellent job on Florida star/leader Scottie Wilbekin for most of the game.  However he got going in a brief stretch when Bryce was on him and Scottie hit the big shots down the stretch.   Powell and UCLA were close but the poise and leadership of Billy Donovan was the difference.  They took advantage of UCLA and did not look back:

Norman Powell's layup with 10 minutes left pulled UCLA to within 56-55. All through the postseason, be it the Pac-12 tournament or this NCAA show, the Bruins had forced others to accept their will.

At 56-55, UCLA point guard Kyle Anderson went to the bench. Florida's Scottie Wilbekin stayed in the game. The Gators went on a 10-0 run, including a Wilbekin three-pointer and a three-point play.

. . . Wilbekin, who missed 10 of his first 12 shots, made his last three, the finale on a high bank shot over out-stretched hands that gave the Gators a 70-63 lead with 1 minute 35 seconds left.

That shot was the dagger.  Travis was right there and Scottie threw up and . . . in:

"Just trying to get a shot up on the backboard and give the bigs a chance to rebound," said Wilbekin. "It ended up going in."

Besides Steve Alford’s lackluster rotations, the other reason UCLA loss was in that sentence by Wilbekin. Florida’s big men were better on the boards:

Bigger concerns lay on the glass. UCLA didn’t have an offensive rebound until Powell grabbed with with only 2:02 left in the first half. Thirty seconds later, Florida freshman Chris Walker rebounded his own missed free throw, scoring an open layup for a 36-30 lead.

At the break, the Gators already had seven offensive rebounds.

"They were probably the best offensive rebounding team that we’ve faced," Wear said. "It seems like they’ve got five guys. There’s guards in there, there’s bigs in there. They’re big and physical, too, so it’s tough to block out guys like that."

One of those boards kept alive a streak of five possessions with a made 3-pointer, a blistering stretch for a team that was good-not-great from long range.

The rebound off a missed free throw is inexcusable.  Your starting five getting two rebounds in 30 minutes is also ugly.  But now is not the time to get into that -- we have a long off-season to break down where this team fell short against Florida yet again.

Now I have the blues, not from Memphis, but from losing Kyle, Zach and, oh yeah, losing to Florida for the fourth time in seven years in the tournament.

More later. Use this thread to talk more on the game.