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Gators cruise past UCLA for 29th win in row

Published On: Mar 28 2014 06:06:26 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 06:24:09 AM CDT
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Guard Michael Frazier II shot like his old self, guard Scottie Wilbekin made big plays in crunch time, and freshman point guard Kasey Hill handed out a career-high 10 assists.
It all added up to a 29th consecutive win for top-seeded Florida, which held off fourth-seeded UCLA 79-68 Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament's South Regional semifinals at FedExForum.

Florida (35-2) will play 11th-seeded Dayton (26-10) on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four. The Flyers defeated 10th-seeded Stanford 82-72 in the region's other semifinal

"Big moments in the game, it's just fun," said Wilbekin, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. He hit a late 3-pointer and a bank shot off a 360-spin in the lane.

"He hit two big shots down the stretch," said UCLA forward Kyle Anderson who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. "Credit to him."

Although the Gators led 66-55 with 5:34 to play, the Bruins pulled within 68-63 with 3:12 left after a jumper from guard Jordan Adams (17 points). However, UCLA could get no closer, and coach Billy Donovan is just a game away from his fourth Final Four in 18 seasons at Florida.

Donovan won his 34th career NCAA Tournament game, though the challenge in front of his team was a different one.

"I thought we were playing a very unique team, almost inverted," Donovan said. "Their guards play around the basket and the Wear twins (forwards David and Travis) were on the perimeter."

Frazier, meanwhile, simply was "on." He led the Gators with 19 points, and he knocked down five of eight 3-point attempts. Frazier, a 44.4 percent 3-point shooter this season, rebounded after going 3-for-13 from long distance and scoring a combined 13 points in Florida's first two NCAA games.

"Coach pulled me aside at shoot-around, told me to shoot the ball with confidence," Frazier said. "That's all I tried to do -- take good ones. And they were able to fall."

Thursday's semifinal also marked a comeback for Hill. He came off the bench to distribute the ball and contribute six points and six rebounds. Hill managed a combined total of two assists in the NCAA victories over Albany and Pittsburgh.

"He played great," Wilbekin said. "It was fun to watch him."

Not for the Bruins, who forced Florida into seven first-half turnovers, but just one in the second half.

"They took care of the ball and they played the majority of the second half with two point guards," Anderson said.

Forward Casey Prather added 12 points for Florida, and reserve forward Dorian Finney-Smith chipped in 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.

UCLA (28-9) dropped to 0-4 all-time vs. Florida, each loss coming in the NCAA Tournament.

Travis Wear had 14 points, and David Wear finished with seven points and six rebounds. Guard Norman Powell scored eight points.

The Gators shot 50 percent (29-for-58), and UCLA shot 42.2 percent (27-for-64). Florida had a 40-30 edge on rebounds.

UCLA went 3-for-18 from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and there were some good looks among those shots.

"They did a great job of late-contesting our shot," said Adams, who was 1-for-5 from beyond the arc.

"We just got beat by an outstanding team," Bruins coach Steve Alford said.

Another victory would be the Gators' 30th in a row and put them back in the Final Four.

"We've done a good job all year of staying in the moment and chasing greatness," Frazier said.

NOTES: Both coaches have sons on their teams. UCLA coach Steve Alford's son Bryce, a freshman guard, played in all 36 games. He scored two points Thursday. Son Kory, a sophomore guard, appeared in 11 games this season. He didn't play against the Gators. Florida coach Billy Donovan's son Billy, a junior guard, played in 16 games, but he wasn't involved Thursday. ... In his 18th season at Florida, Donovan is the dean of SEC coaches. This season, there were six Division I head coaches who were assistants under Donovan. ... Since the NCAA Tournament field went to 32 teams in the 1974-75 season, UCLA has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen 18 times. ... Alford has led four schools to the NCAA Tournament: Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico and UCLA.

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