UC Santa Barbara crushed by Florida, 79-51
Reporting from Tampa, Fla. — The dream didn’t die quietly.
Thousands of Florida fans made sure UC Santa Barbara heard it every time the Gauchos committed a turnover, missed a shot badly or otherwise flubbed their upset bid.
Santa Barbara had hoped this time would be different, that a second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament as a No. 15-seeded team would result in more than a feel-good buildup followed by a double-digit defeat.
As it turned out, the only thing the Gauchos would want to save from their Southeast Regional second-round game is a snapshot of the scoreboard from the first minute: UCSB 1, UF 0.
After Santa Barbara won the opening tip and scored the first point, it was all Gators during a 79-51 victory Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Second-seeded Florida scored the next 10 points and led by as many as 25 late in the first half, dominating every facet of the game against a group of Gauchos who played like rookies even though they had been here before.
The Gators (27-7) shot 54.7% to Santa Barbara’s 36.2% and grabbed nine more rebounds than the Gauchos (18-14). Santa Barbara played a man down after forward Jaime Serna broke his wrist early in the game and could gut out only 11 minutes.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance from the get-go,” said Gauchos guard Orlando Johnson, who scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half. “They jumped out and we never saw a chance at the lead. We had 1-0 and that was about it.”
Santa Barbara can add Florida guard Erving Walker to a list of postseason foils that includes Ohio State’s Jon Diebler (seven three-pointers in the first round last year) and Arizona’s Salim Stoudamire (four late points that helped stave off Santa Barbara in a 2002 first-round game).
Walker made four of six three-point attempts and scored 18 points.
It was the latest sad showing for the Big West Conference on college basketball’s biggest stage. Conference teams have won only six games in the NCAA tournament since Nevada Las Vegas left the conference in 1992, and none since Pacific defeated Pittsburgh in the first round in 2005.
Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams knew picking up his school’s first NCAA tournament victory since a triumph over Houston in 1990 was going to be a challenge.
“Someone said, ‘What a great draw,’ ” Williams said on the eve of the game. “I said, ‘Yeah, that would be a little bit like sitting in the doctor’s office and someone telling you [that] you have cancer, but it’s a good cancer.’ ”
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