Looking to advance to their fourth straight Elite Eight, the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators meet a familiar tournament foe in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. The Gators take on the No. 4 seeded UCLA Bruins in the South Region semifinals at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. (EST). The Charm City Gators will host a watch party for the Sweet 16 game at The Greene Turtle in McHenry Row on Thursday, so come out and watch the Orange and Blue take on the Bruins. We will be holding raffles for a chance to win Turtle Bucks!
Florida (34-2, 18-0 SEC) edged by a pesky Albany squad in the Round of 64 last Thursday afternoon in Orlando and then controlled No. 9 seeded Pittsburgh for a 61-45 win on Saturday. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin led the Gators with 21 points while Michael Frazier II was the only other Florida player in double figures with 10 points. Senior Patric Young grabbed eight boards as the Gators out-rebounded the Panthers, 38-31.
Wilbekin has been the engine for the Gators all season and was named the SEC Player of the Year and the SEC Tournament Most Outstanding Player. The veteran is averaging 13.1 points per game (ppg), trailing only Casey Prather who is scoring just over 14 points per contest. Frazier (12.5 ppg) and Young (10.9 ppg) are also averaging double figures while Young in hauling in 6.3 rebounds per game.
UCLA (28-8, 12-6 Pac-12) handled 13th-seeded Tulsa in the opening round, 76-59, before outlasting No. 12 seeded Stephen F. Austin, 76-60, on Sunday in San Diego. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams led the Bruins in the win over the Lumberjacks with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
First-year head coach Steve Alford has UCLA playing at an up-tempo pace and the Bruins are scoring 81.5 ppg, the ninth-best average in the nation. Adams leads the UCLA attack, scoring at 17.4 ppg clip with Kyle Anderson averaging 14.7 ppg. The Bruins defeated Arizona, 75-71, to claim the Pac-12 title in Las Vegas back on March 15.
The Gators and Bruins have met in three of the last eight NCAA Tournaments with UF winning each of the matchups. The teams first met in the 2006 title game with Florida winning its first-ever basketball national championship, 73-57, in Indianapolis. The next year, the Gators knocked off the Bruins, 76-66, in the Final Four in Atlanta, en route to their second consecutive national championship. The teams last faced each other in the second round of the 2011 tournament with UF claiming a 73-65 win in Tampa, courtesy of 21 points from Erving Walker. Patric Young scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in the game as a freshman.