The Bruins have held their Memphis and LSU, their last two opponents, to 45 points each. Combined those two teams shot 30-90 against UCLA's tenacious defense. They held LSU without a three-pointer (0-6 for the game) and Memphis was a miserable 2-17, avoiding a shutout by hitting two long distance bombs in the final two minutes of the game.
UCLA's defense against LSU forced the Tigers to take a lot of bad shots early in the shot clock and that's something Florida has to avoid at all costs.
"They made LSU panic offensively," said "Florida cannot get into a panic mode and that means Taurean Green has to play very, very well."
The place the Gators must win the game, says Wise, is on the perimeter. UCLA does a great job of pushing the wings out wider than usual and pressuring the point guard to disrupt the offense. The goal is to force turnovers or else make teams take shots further out than normal. UCLA wants the 10-foot shot to become a 15-footer, the 15-footer to become a 20-footer and the three-point shot to be taken three to four feet behind the line.
"I think you have to win this area in terms of running your offense," said Wise. "You have to be sharp in getting your pass to the wing and you have to be sharp in ball reversal. That's the area of the court that Florida must win and that goes to offensive execution."
When LSU couldn't get the ball to Glen Davis in the low block early in the shot clock, the Tigers hit the panic button and began firing up ill-advised shots. That played right into UCLA's hands. What the Tigers should have done, said Wise, is show more patience and be willing to make UCLA work harder on defense for a longer time. The longer a team has to work on defense the more likely there is for a breakdown that can lead to a decent shot.
"That [quick shots] is what LSU settled for," said Wise. "That's the trick to not settle for it when they push you out."
UCLA was on the verge of elimination from the tournament against Gonzaga but the Bruins rallied in the final five minutes of the game to pull out a miracle last second win. Up until those final five disastrous moments when the Zags went totally brain dead, Gonzaga was in total control against the UCLA defensive pressure by getting the ball into the high post and spacing the UCLA defenders so there was room for the offense to get movement. The Zags scored plenty of points off back door plays and post-ups on the low blocks with the entry pass coming from the high post.
"Back doors are going to be there and the high post stuff that Florida runs should be successful in getting the ball to Horford and Noah in the elbow area which is what they are comfortable doing," said Wise. "That's one of the beauties of the Florida offense. Not only is it complicated but it puts their bigs in position to score, whereas LSU with Big Baby Davis is pretty much just a block to block, in the paint guy. Florida's bigs are more versatile that that and that should come into play tomorrow."
Wise expects UCLA to game plan the defense to stop Green and shooting guard Lee Humphrey. Green scored 15 points in Florida's semifinal win over George Mason while Humphrey scored 19, hitting six three-pointers to tie an NCAA semifinal record.
"I don't anticipate Humphrey getting very many looks and I don't anticipate Green getting very many looks," said Wise. "I think if I'm UCLA I'm going to see if (Corey) Brewer, (Al) Horford and (Joakim) Noah can beat me. Florida can win that way."
If the Gators are to win with the big guys, Wise thinks that Brewer will be the key. The 6-9 sophomore scored 19 against George Mason on a variety of shots including 3-6 from the three-point line. What Brewer can do is use his quickness and size to get into the lane where he can hit the medium jumper, take the ball to the rack where he's likely to get fouled or dump the ball down low to Horford or Noah for an easy dunk.
Florida has run a curl play quite successfully in the last three games, bringing Brewer up from the baseline around a screen and into the paint where he takes the pass about 10-12 feet from the basket.
"You want him creative off curls and it will be interesting to see what UCLA does," said Wise. "I think they'll try to fight over the curl whereas a lot of teams trail him so he might have to flatten that out to get open but if he gets it in the paint, he can make a lot of things happen. He has to be able to read and react within the framework of the offense."
On the defensive end, Wise isn't worried about Florida's ability to play the Bruins straight up.
"UCLA is not good enough to win a game offensively if Florida can solve its offensive issues," said Wise. "Florida's offense is just fine. There is nothing that I have seen that is a huge concern for Florida defensively.
"I think you'll see Florida in and out of zones. I think they'll mix up and press against certain lineups because they substitute so much that at times he [Ben Howland, UCLA coach] has some non-ball handling lineups on the floor. I think Florida will be very opportunistic about when to press. I think Florida will mix it up a lot on defense but in the end, what will win for Florida is on the offensive end."
The Florida offense against the UCLA defense is what Wise believes will decide the outcome of the game.
"It's almost a battle of wills because they are so determined to make you shoot the shot they want you to shoot and Florida has to be determined to be patient enough to get the shot that they want," said Wise. "Florida has to be as disciplined on offense as UCLA is with their defense."
Wise's three keys for Florida to win the game and the national championship:
1. "Florida has to be Florida on offense. Florida has to be patient and work the shot clock to get shots they want to take. Florida has to win the perimeter. Florida can't let them dictate the game on the perimeter."
2. "Florida must shoot around 45 percent or better to win the game. If Florida shoots 45 percent or better, it's going to be very hard for UCLA to win the game."
3. "Florida must rebound. When UCLA has the ball, it has to be one and done."