TAMPA, Fla.--Credit the crowd.
If UCLA needed any evidence to show why the regular season matters, it came Saturday when the Bruins lost, 73-65, to Florida in front of a decidedly pro-Gators crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum.
In a tight game, loud, cheering fans can make a big difference and UCLA found that out the hard way playing only about 120 miles from Florida's campus in Gainesville.
"We basically lost a tight game to a good team at home," center Joshua Smith said. "It definitely made a difference down the stretch."
The thing is, UCLA didn't have to be in this position. Had the Bruins played the regular season with as much vigor and intensity as they had played the last two games, they might have been seeded higher than No. 7 and probably wouldn't have had to travel into enemy territory to face a No. 2 in the third round.
Had they not mailed in their Pac-10 tournament game against Oregon, or sleepwalked through a 3-3 finish to the regular season, UCLA very likely would have played closer to home and most definitely would have played farther away from somebody else's home.
"They earned it by doing well in the regular season," UCLA forward Reeves Nelson said. "They got the two seed close to home so that was their advantage and their crowd definitely helped them at the end of the game."
Lesson learned for next year?
"It all adds up," Tyler Honeycutt said. "Where we’re seeded who we’re playing where we’re playing. We have to start off from the beginning."