The smallest player on the court made the biggest plays of the game for the Florida Gators to ensure their first trip to the Sweet 16 since their 2007 championship run. Erving Walker scored 10 of the Gators’ last 12 points and 21 points overall as #2 seed Florida knocked off the #7 seed UCLA Bruins 73-65 in their third-round NCAA Tournament matchup at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
It was all Walker for the Gators in the last four minutes of the game. First, the 5’8" Walker threw in a wild bank shot after bouncing off 305-pound Bruins center Joshua Smith and falling to the floor. On Florida’s next possession, he drew a foul and made one of two free throws, then stole the ball and dished to Vernon Macklin for a layup that increased the Gators’ lead to 66-60.
After UCLA cut the lead to 66-65, Macklin missed a layup, but Florida collected the offensive rebound and got the ball to Walker for a big three-pointer to make the score 69-65. Walker would then score the Gators’ last four points from the free throw line as the Bruins were forced to foul.
Kenny Boynton scored 12 points for Florida while Alex Tyus added eight points and 13 rebounds. A big key to the defensive effort for the Gators down the stretch was the ability for freshman center Patric Young to play the last several minutes with four fouls.
UCLA had four players in double figures, led by Smith and Reeves Nelson with 16 points apiece. Nelson also had 11 rebounds for the Bruins.
Up next for the Gators will be the BYU Cougars in New Orleans.