The Gators played a Man's Game today as UCLA withstood every Florida challenge and UF answered every UCLA run with one of their own. Florida shot 50 percent and answered UCLA's early advantage on the glass by pulling even with 30 rebounds for each team. UF also shot 13-17 at the free throw line, none more crucial than the four made by Erving Walker in the final minute.
Walker led the Gators with 21 points, including scoring 10 of Florida's last 12 points. Walker was also smart, with only one turnover and attacking basketball. His running bank shot with 4:00 left was as much about trying to get UCLA's Josh Smith to foul out, as it was trying to spark UF. Had the officials given the Gators as much credit as they did UCLA, UF would have won easily.
As great as Walker was, this game was as much about Patric Young becoming a grown man in front of us. His 8 points and 4 rebounds, as Vernon Macklin battled foul trouble and awful defensive play, was a revelation. Young's block of Reeves Nelson, followed by a steal and breakaway dunk in the first half, was probably the two best defensive plays UF has had this season.
The third best might have been Chandler Parsons' rejection of Smith with 6:34 left and the score tied at 55-55. Parsons came from behind and cleared the ball, leading to a pull-up 3-pointer by Kenny Boynton, which gave Florida the lead for good. Parsons had 7 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, as he continues to find ways to contribute, even if he can't find the hoop. Boynton had 12 points, but the next few days will be spent wondering if he can play Thursday with a sprained left ankle.
Florida will play the winner of BYU/Gonzaga in the Southeast Regional Semifinals on Thursday night in New Orleans.