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#2 Florida Gators (27-7) vs. #7 UCLA Bruins (23-10)
Betting Preview and Score Prediction
The seventh-seeded UCLA Bruins (23-10) had to hold off a late charge on Thursday while the second-seeded Florida Gators (27-7) were never really challenged by their opponent on their way to Saturday's third-round NCAA tournament matchup in the Southeast Region at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. The Bruins and Gators will be meeting for the first time since they squared off in the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta when Florida became the last team to repeat as national champions.
UCLA lost that last meeting 76-66 and also lost to the Gators in the NCAA title game the year before, 73-57. The Bruins were not favored in either game and were also underdogs against #10 seed Michigan State in their 78-76 second-round victory on Thursday.
The Spartans staged a furious rally that fell just short as the buzzer sounded after trailing 42-24 at halftime and 64-41 with 8:26 remaining. Michigan State senior guard Kalin Lucas was called for traveling on the game's final play as he was trying to run down the court in the last four seconds following a 3-pointer by Keith Appling and a UCLA free throw that ended the scoring.
The Bruins limited Lucas most of the night, as he missed his first nine shots and failed to score until there were seven minutes left in the game. He finished with 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting while UCLA had four players score in double figures, led by Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee with 16 points apiece.
Florida will present the Bruins with a new challenge after blowing out UC Santa Barbara, 79-51. The Gators shot 58 percent from the field in the first half en route to a 43-19 halftime lead and never looked back. Erving Walker had a team-high 18 points and six assists while Kenny Boynton scored 13 on 6 of 9 shooting.
The shooting from Walker and Boynton has been the key to the team's success most of the season and will likely be the difference here against UCLA as well. The OVER has cashed in eight of Florida's last nine games, with the Gators scoring over 70 points six times during that stretch. They are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games.
The Bruins are 5-1 ATS in their last six games overall and have seen the UNDER go 4-2 over that span. They have allowed three of their last four opponents to score 70 or more after holding their previous seven to 65 or less in games that did not go to overtime.
Score Prediction: Florida 68 UCLA 65
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