Late run drives Florida to Elite Eight

Florida tried twice in the first 30 minutes of the game to establish a big lead and finish off a comfortable victory, but UCLA continued to fight back. With the Gators leading 56-55 and 10 minutes remaining, they went on a 10-0 run, punctuated by a Scottie Wilbekin three-pointer and three-point play, pushing Florida to a 79-68 win over UCLA on Thursday in Memphis.

The win secured Florida's fourth straight Elite Eight appearance and its 29th straight win this season.

"Our guys were able to stay the course," Billy Donovan said. "We moved the ball well, got it down the lane offensively."

With the Gators clinging to a one-point lead while starters Casey Prather and Patric Young had four fouls, Dorian Finney-Smith hit a jumper from the corner to push the lead back to three points. After a Michael Frazier jumper, Scottie Wilbekin went into a late-game model that has been familiar to him this season.

UCLA decided to go under a screen, leaving Wilbekin open for a three-pointer. Bruins coach Steve Alford was angry and called a time to regroup. His team missed a jumper on the possession out of the timeout, and Wilbekin added another play to the highlight reel on the next possession. The senior point guard drove to the basket, bouncing off UCLA guard Norman Powell and found a way to throw the ball off the glass and in with a foul. After the free throw, the Florida lead ballooned to 66-55 with 5:34 left to play.

Wilbekin was 1-7 on field goals in the first half with just three points. In the second half, the senior was 4-6 from the field with 10 points.

"I just tried to keep attacking and stay aggressive," Wilbekin said. "My shots weren't falling in the first half. I just tried to stay the course and keep playing my game. When the game is on the line, it's the (most fun) to play."

The Florida offense had success with ball movement, totaling 22 assists on 29 field goals made. Freshman Kasey Hill led the team with 10 assists. Per ESPN, it was the fourth time a freshman point guard has posted at least 10 assists in a Sweet 16 game, joining Jason Kidd (1993), Keith Gatlin (1984) and Magic Johnson (1978).

Hill turned the ball over twice and pulled down six rebounds while adding six points on 2-4 shooting from the field.

"He played great tonight," Wilbekin said of Hill. "It was fun to watch him out there. He did a great job getting into the lane, finishing himself or finding bigs to dump the ball to. It's great to see his development. He's always able to do that. He does it in practice all the time. It's great to see him translate that to the game."

The teams got off to a sloppy start before trading blows. From the 16:55 mark of the first half until the 9:21 mark, all five of the Gators' field goals made came from behind the three-point line.

Florida was able to get UCLA's 6-9 point guard Kyle Anderson in foul trouble, stagnating the Bruins' advantage on the offensive end. UCLA went the final 6:11 of the first half while making only one field goal. The Bruins also went through a 4:50 field goal drought in the second half.

Florida center Patric Young dealt with foul trouble throughout the games, playing only 19 minutes. Donovan said he felt like Young was unable to get in the flow of the game.

With him spending a majority of the game on the bench, it provided an opportunity for freshman big man Chris Walker. He went 3-5 from the field, providing seven points and three rebounds with one highlight block.

"Chris really gave us good quality minutes," Donovan said. "He did a good job in there. He was active, blocked a shot, got some putbacks. He's getting better and growing. Chris came off the bench and gave us quality, important minutes.

Michael Frazier hit five three-pointers on the night. It was the ninth game this season he has hit at least five three-pointers. No other player in Florida history has more than seven games like that in one season.

Florida will face No. 11 seed Dayton on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. on TBS for the right to play in the Final Four.

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