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A tremendous effort by Kyle Anderson nearly brought UCLA back, but the fourth-seeded Bruins couldn’t quite muster enough points against No. 1 Florida in a 79-68 loss. The Gators put on an uncharacteristic offensive show against an aggressive UCLA defense, dishing out 22 assists on the night.
The Bruins handled Florida’s pressure better than many opponents, committing just eight turnovers, but couldn’t match the Gators’ depth. Led by Dorian Finney-Smith, the Florida reserves outscored UCLA’s by a 23-11 margin while playing vastly superior defense.
Florida sniper Michael Frazier II bounced back from a poor showing in the opening weekend of the tourney to pour in a game-high 19 points, including 5-of-8 from long range. Defensive stopper Will Yeguete added eight points and a team-leading seven boards.
Anderson kept the Gators' pressure at bay while notching 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Jordan Adams led the Bruins with 17 points, right on his season average.
Freshman Chris Walker, rarely a factor in the regular season after joining the team late in the year, provided a major spark off the Florida bench with seven points, three boards, one block and one highlight-reel finish after rebounding a missed free throw.
The win sets up a showdown between the Gators and the tournament’s top Cinderella, 11th-seeded Dayton. The individual matchup between Scottie Wilbekin and Jordan Sibert will be worth the price of admission, but it’s hard to imagine Dayton being able to handle Florida’s advantages in size and athleticism over 40 minutes.
The Gators also know a thing or two about finishing off underdogs after knocking Florida Gulf Coast out of last year’s Big Dance.