The winning streak that stretched back to before Thanksgiving was essentially snapped in about 30 minutes. Now, about the losing streak that stretches back eight years…. The headlines Sunday afternoon were all about UCLA's advancing to its first Sweet 16 in six years by obliterating Stephen F. Austin's 29-game winning streak with a 77-60 victory at Viejas Arena. But the real story can be found in seven smaller letters that have haunted Bruins fans since the days of Noah. Yeech, Florida. This is not meant to put a damper on Steve Alford's first Sweet 16 appearance as a coach in 15 seasons, and is certainly not a reflection of this two-week roll by the most entertaining young Bruins team in years. But Florida!!!! The victory by the Bruins on Sunday meant they had dispatched their two opening-weekend foes by a combined 34 points. But they must now play a program that has knocked them out of this tourney three times in eight years by — you guessed it — a combined 34 points. "So now … Florida," said Norman Powell between deep breaths. The chances of this meeting were detailed in a tournament preview column here last week — who wasn't instantly dreading the thought? — but it's worth a quick review now. Florida, the top-seeded team in this tournament and the hottest team in the nation with 28 straight wins, will play UCLA on Thursday night in Memphis, Tenn., in the Sweet 16. In the last eight years the Gators have beaten the Bruins in the national championship game, the national semifinals and a round-of-32 game. They have beaten them with different players, wearing different uniforms, playing at different sites. But they have beaten them with the same coach and same system while always leaving the same lingering heartache. Billy Donovan has always dominated Ben Howland. Gators speed and savvy have always blown away Bruins skill. Gators toughness has always overwhelmed Bruins tentativeness. For much of a decade, Florida has been UCLA's measuring stick, and the Bruins have always come up awkwardly short. "I watched some of those games," said Bruin Tony Parker. "I think I was even cheering for Florida. They've always played very, very hard." The players know the history. They've not only seen the games, the Wear twins were actually redshirting transfers the last time the Bruins lost in the tournament to the Gators, on the first weekend in 2011. "When we first saw the pairings, we saw Florida in our half of the bracket and we're like 'Man, does everybody want to see another Florida-UCLA matchup?'" said Travis Wear.
Time for UCLA to take a bigger step
Los Angeles Times | Mar 25