TAMPA, Fla. -- No. 2-seeded Florida held off a feisty UCLA, 73-65, Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum and will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since winning consecutive national championships in 2006 and '07.
In a see-saw battle most of the game, Florida finally pulled away late in the second half, outscoring UCLA 18-10 in the final 6:24. Erving Walker sealed the game with a 3-pointer and four of four free throws in the final 1:12.
Turning point: With 6:43 remaining and the score tied at 55-55, UCLA called a timeout to get center Joshua Smith back in the game and ran an alley-oop play for him. Chandler Parsons blocked the shot, then Florida's Kenny Boynton hit a 3-pointer. Smith then took an ill-advised shot, missed, and Florida's Erik Murphy hit another three-pointer with 5:49 to play, giving the Gators a 61-55 lead -- the largest lead either team had until the final minute.
Player of the game: Walker, Florida. He led the Gators with 21 points and scored 10 in the final 3:52. His 3-pointer with 1:12 to play gave Florida a 69-65 lead, and he then made two free throws to give the Gators a 71-65 lead with 32 seconds to go. He made five of eight shots, including three of five 3-pointers.
Key stat: UCLA made only three of 13 3-point attempts, and the Bruins were one for seven until they started hoisting desperation heaves in the final minutes. Without an outside presence, Florida was able to use its zone defense to limit UCLA's inside game, which produced 32 points.
Miscellaneous: UCLA held a 20-10 rebounding edge in the first half, but Florida crashed the boards hard in the second. The Gators out-rebounded UCLA 22-15 in the second half. Parsons, Florida's leading rebounder, had zero rebounds in the first half, but had five in the second. Florida, which had no offensive rebounds in the first half, had eight in the second.
What’s next: Florida (28-7) moves on to New Orleans to face the winner of Saturday night’s game between No. 3-seeded Brigham Young and No. 11 Gonzaga. BYU defeated Florida, 99-92, in a first-round NCAA tournament game last season.