Gators know UCLA wants to run

The Bruins want to hurry. They don't hide it or try to disguise what they're doing on offense. UCLA's offense is based around getting rebounds and pushing the ball up the floor or creating fast break opportunities off steals. What they might lack in a physical presence in the paint, the Bruins make up for with their athleticism. The film caught Florida's attention this week while preparing.

The desire to the quick tempo comes from the starting lineup UCLA puts on the court. The Bruins start three guards -- Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell -- that can all handle the ball and score. Twin brothers David and Travis Wear start in the frontcourt, but neither is counted on to provide physicality in the paint. They are tied for fourth on the team, pulling down only 2.5 rebounds per game.

They can shoot from the perimeter and force opposing big men to step out and cover them on the perimeter. But they can also run and help the guards push the tempo to a quicker level.

The fast pace that UCLA plays at has led them to average 82 points this season, and the fast break offense is the reason.

"They're terrific at coming up with steals, which generates fast break points for them," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They're terrific on the break. They're very fast. They're a great passing team. They're an unselfish team. Certainly missed shots, turnovers, loose ball turnovers in the middle of the floor, they're great at taking those plays and turning them into points."

With the faster pace, UCLA gets more possessions than most teams, which ultimately push their average point totals higher than most teams. They can score in the half-court offense when necessary, but the 6-9 height of Anderson at point guard allows the Bruins to get good shots in transition since he can see over most defenses. Anderson, who admitted on Wednesday that his decision between Florida and UCLA was "very close" before ultimately deciding to be a Bruin, also leads UCLA with 7.0 rebounds per game.

When he gets those rebounds, he runs. There's no slowing down to read the defense or set up a play. The Bruins want to play as fast as possible, and when their primary ball handler can come up with a rebound, it makes it easier for the team to get out on the run.

"He's definitely a unique cover," said Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, who could be guarding him. "We're just going to try to keep him out of the lane, not let him get a step because he obviously has great length. If he gets a step on you, he can finish over and around you. We just have to build walls, help each other and try to keep him out of the lane."

The good news for Florida is that it knows how to run, too. Routinely after the Gators pull down a defensive rebound, Donovan is standing on the sideline and urging his team to run the ball up the court. That's what has made it dangerous with guards Kasey Hill and Wilbekin on the floor together.

Florida showcases its press in games, trying to speed up the tempo against opponents that might want to take their time getting up the floor and set up in a half-court set. The press will still be an important part of Thursday night's game, even if the Bruins will already be running.

"We're pressing," Donovan said. "When we press, we're trying to force tempo. We would like to play fast. When you're playing against a team as gifted and as talented as UCLA is on the break, in their half-court offense, you want to make sure that you're able to get matched up and not give up a lot of easy baskets."

It also forces Florida to set up quickly after every made basketball. If the Gators aren't in position, the press can be easily broken, but it can also produce easy UCLA baskets if the Florida big men don't get back down the floor.

That has been a focus this week. The offensive statistics were enough to catch the attention of the Florida big men, but the film made it even clearer.

"I believe it's going to be a challenge for us because, obviously, it's a very good offensive team," Florida forward Will Yeguete said. "We know we're a really good defensive team as well, and it's just going to be a battle. We're going to stick to our principles and just play the way we've been playing, and we're just going to have to limit them because we know they're going to score tough shots."

The matchup that has stolen headlines and attention this week focuses on the UCLA high-scoring offense against Florida's dominant defense. The players have heard it, too. The unique challenge the Bruins provide will give the Gators different looks to prepare for. UCLA has already proven it can score against highly thought of defenses after posting a 75-71 win to secure the Pac-12 Tournament over Arizona.

Florida and UCLA are built around different strengths, making Thursday in Memphis even more intriguing.

"They're a great offensive team," Wilbekin said. "We're a good defensive team. I think those styles are going to clash a little bit in the game. Whoever's style of play wins out will be the team that wins the game."

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