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Gators face UCLA Thursday with Elite Eight berth on the line

The Sweet Sixteen is finally upon us in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the matchups in Memphis are set to get underway tonight. The headliner, set to tip off at 9:45 is between the UCLA Bruins, one of four number 4 seeds left in the tournament against the top overall seed, the Florida Gators.

The Bruins are coming into this game fresh off two fairly simple wins, two 17 point victories over Tulsa and SF Austin. The Bruins are led by a couple of sophomore guards in Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Anderson can be seen as the do-it-all man for the Bruins as he leads the team in rebounds and assists, and finds himself second on the team in scoring. Being a 6’9″ guard that can play both guard spots and forward, he gives you all the tools you could ever want, and Gator senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin knows it will be tough to guard him.

“We’re going to have to keep him out of the lane, not let him get a step, he has a great length, and we’re just going to have to build walls, help each other and keep him out of the lane.”

Adams leads the team in scoring and has averaged just over 17 points per game this tournament. And while he doesn’t come in at 6’9″ he is 6’5″ and long.  When you add in guys like Zach LaVine, Tony Parker and the Wear brothers, you have many guys capable of putting up big numbers, and when they score they score in bunches.

The Bruins average a whopping 81 points per game and that ranks them 12th nationally. When you also notice their offense ranks fifth in assists per game and has a field goal percentage of .490 which ranks them 10th in the country, it’s easy to see they can be a hard team to contain. Gator head coach Billy Donovan talked about what makes their offense so good.

“Their terrific on the break, very fast, a great passing team and a very unselfish team. They’re great at turning mistakes into points,” he said.

Bu as is the case with a lot of great offensive teams the defense may not be quite the same caliber. The Bruins on defense give up close to 70 points per game. Because of that, the Bruins may have to rely on that offense to simply outscore their opponent. The Bruins are 25-2 when scoring 75 points or more and they are 3-8 when scoring less than 75. UCLA is a very high up-tempo team and will look to push the pace early and often.

The Florida Gators are coming into this game holding double digit victories against both Albany and Pittsburgh in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Gators have been led by their four seniors in Casey Prather, Patric Young, Will Yeguete and the floor general Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin has led the Gators this post-season averaging 15.5 points per game with Prather following a close second at 12.

The Gators however, have won the majority of their games this season with a different approach. The Gators have been a very strong team defensively this year and that’s basically what defines them. The Gators average giving up just over 57 points per game, which ranks them first in the SEC and close to tops in the NCAA overall.

That’s what makes this matchup so interesting; two teams with very different styles of play and it could come down to which team has its will on the other.  Will the Bruins be able to play solid defense and can the Gators score enough points if they need to keep up?

One thing that is for sure is that Donovan and Bruins head coach Steve Alford will have their teams ready and the FedEx Forum will be in for a show. One thing quietly on the Bruins mind Thursday night will be revenge however. As a program, UCLA has not had the most success in recent years in the tournament against the Gators, but Donovan says that won’t play too much into the match up.

“The letters across the jersey may still say UCLA, but for our team everything has changed, we have a totally different team. They have a different coach and different players. We won’t be able to bring anything from the table from those previous games.”

The Gators and Bruins will tip-off at 9:45 with the winner moving on to the Elite Eight to face the winner of Stanford and Dayton. You can hear all the action of Thursday’s game on Country 103.7 The Gator with coverage starting at 9:10pm.

To hear audio of Gator coach Billy Donovan and point guard Scottie Wilbekin click on the links below:

Donovan talks about UCLA’s strength

Donovan says they can’t look into past history against UCLA

Scottie talks about defending Kyle Anderson

 

 

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