UCLA Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Florida
The No. 4 UCLA Bruins will take on the top-seeded Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Memphis.
For the Bruins and Steve Alford, a shot at redemption is at stake. UCLA has been bounced out of the NCAA tournament by Florida three times since 2006—including twice in the Final Four.
This game offers the Bruins the chance to exorcise the proverbial demons and move on to the Elite Eight.
Taking down Billy Donovan's team will be no easy task. UCLA will have to play exceptionally well in order to come away with the victory.
Here are five keys to beating Florida for the UCLA Bruins.
It Starts with Defense
Much like UCLA, Florida loves to get out in transition with its athletic starting five.
The Gators' entire starting unit is adept at running the floor and causing problems with their quickness and athleticism. UCLA has to do a great job at getting back and not allowing the Gators easy baskets.
Outside of Michael Frazier, Florida isn't a great shooting team from the perimeter. On the season, the Gators are shooting 36.1 percent from three-point range. UCLA could in fact opt to play zone and make it difficult for Florida to attack the basket off the bounce.
The foul-shooting situation is also something to note. As a team, Florida shoots 66.9 percent from the charity stripe. It would behoove UCLA to foul driving Gators as opposed to relinquishing uncontested layups.
UCLA is 16-0 when holding opponents to below 70 points. Should this axiom hold true on Thursday, UCLA's got a great chance at pulling the upset.
Get Patric Young in Foul Trouble
The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year—or the "Minister of Defense"—will offer UCLA some difficulties in the post.
An explosive athlete, Young contests shots at a high rate. His overall athleticism figures to give a thin UCLA front line problems on multiple counts. Outside of Tony Parker, UCLA doesn't have a true post presence. Young figures to have a considerable advantage rebounding the basketball.
As a result, UCLA has to be aggressive in attacking Young. Florida doesn't have a ton of depth on its roster. Outside of Young and Will Yeguete, the only post player with some experience on the team is true freshman Chris Walker. Even at that, Walker rarely plays.
If UCLA can get Young into foul trouble, it opens up things not only inside for Parker, but also driving lanes for the likes of Jordan Adams and Norman Powell.
Utilize Tony Parker
Tony Parker will be the biggest X-factor for the Bruins in this contest.
Parker is UCLA's lone post presence on the roster. In recent weeks, his role on the team has grown. Parker's shown the propensity to finish in traffic and rebound effectively.
He's the one Bruin with the ability to score on the block with regularity. In essence, he gives UCLA an additional dimension from an offensive standpoint.
Against Florida, his potential matchup versus Young will be key. If Parker can play with some effectiveness, it could go a long way in helping UCLA win the game.
Limit Second-Chance Points
It is absolutely imperative UCLA limits second-chance points and opportunities. This could be the most important key for the Bruins to abide by.
Florida killed Pitt with offensive rebounds. The Gators accrued 14 offensive rebounds against the Panthers. Six of those rebounds came from Young alone. These second chances allowed for Florida to get easy buckets, and it virtually demoralized Pitt.
UCLA has to hit the boards extremely hard. Both Young and Yeguete are animals on the boards. UCLA isn't known as an overly great rebounding team at 129th in the country in total rebounding. David and Travis Wear combine for only seven rebounds a game.
It'll have to be a group effort on the boards against the Gators.
Keep Turnovers to a Minumum
Florida loves to get out in transition and score off of opponents' turnovers. Casey Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith are particularly lethal in this capacity.
UCLA needs to minimize the turnovers and play intelligently. Against Stephen F. Austin, the Bruins committed only three turnovers in 40 minutes of action. Fortunately for the Bruins, UCLA ranks third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Bruins will have to take care of the ball effectively against Donovan's vaunted full-court press. It could be a dicey proposition if true freshman Bryce Alford is tasked with bringing the ball up the floor a great deal. As a result, expect Kyle Anderson to play the vast majority of the contest (if not the entire game).
UCLA will have to play like it did against Arizona if it has any shot at upsetting the Florida Gators.
In the win versus the Wildcats, UCLA played extremely hard. Alford's team was dedicated on the defensive end and displayed the wherewithal of a team wanting to win at all costs. The Bruins captured every loose ball and played like a scrappy, undersized team for the duration of the game.
Against Florida, UCLA will have to bring the same sort of intensity. If the Gators impose their will on the backboards, UCLA could be in for a long night.