Crazy-tough loss takes sheen off bounce-back season, as tiger-blooded Bruins get bitten by Gators in Tourney for third time in last six years
UCLA showed up, played hard, and pushed the 2nd-seeded Florida Gators all the way to the end, before finally succumbing 73-65. The game went back and forth for the first 25 minutes, with UCLA leading 45-43 early in the Second Half. But with Josh Smith and Lazeric Jones in foul trouble, and with Florida shooting extremely well, the Gators took the lead back, and held on for dear life.
With Smith and Reeves Nelson out-muscling Florida down low, and with Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee both also contributing on Offense, the Bruins kept it very close. The largest lead for either team was FOUR Points, until there was under 6 minutes left in the game. That’s when Florida hit consecutive Three’s to go up by 6. But the Bruins came back, with a Honeycutt Trey and a Smith inside bucket to make it 66-65 with 1:30 to go.
But that was it for UCLA’s Offense. The Gators closed it out on a 7-0 run, with a huge 3 and a bunch of Free Throws, as Honeycutt missed a Three, Lee missed a Front End Free Throw, and Nelson missed a Three to end all hope, and the Season.
The Bruins played a very good game, especially the four big men, including Anthony Stover on Defense. Lee was also successful inside, but he nor any other Guard could make anything from outside. Brendan Lane failed to duplicate his effort from Thursday, and Tyler Lamb,,, did he even play? At one point the Florida bench was outscoring UCLA’s 15-2.
But the Bruins should not hang their heads. They played with heart and full effort, and just couldn’t shoot as well as Florida did. The season should still be considered a decent one, especially in the face of last year’s disaster, and also, in the face of the injuries suffered by Lazeric Jones, who was just a shell of the guy that impressed throughout the first half of the season. If Jones could have shot just a tad better from outside, UCLA would have had a better seed, and would still be dancing.
Now comes Nervous Time — Who will stay, and who will leave early for the Pro’s? No sense on speculating about next year, until it is known which of the 4 potential bailers come back. Some idiots want Honeycutt to leave, due to his apparent “overly-loose” demeanor. I say BULL. The Bruins need his talent. He may be like the Angels’ Garrett Anderson, who is often mistakenly thought to not care enough, but GA consistently put up big numbers, helping the team win, and Honeycutt will too, if he returns. And next year, if everyone returns, Honeycutt will have a chance to do what Garrett did — Make the play that gives his team the Championship.