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Florida earns fourth consecutive Elite Eight by getting best of UCLA once again

The Dagger

Florida hasn't won the national championship in men's basketball since claiming back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, but it's fair to say coach Billy Donovan's program is the closest thing to a dynasty in the recent history of the college game.

The No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Gators extended their school-record winning streak to 29 games Thursday beating UCLA 79-68 in the Sweet 16. Florida advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year and the sixth time in the past nine seasons.

They will meet No. 11 seed Dayton, the Cinderella of this year's tournament, on Saturday for a chance to get back to the Final Four.

The Gators led 36-30 at halftime and pushed the advantage to 11 early in the second half before UCLA made a run. Florida starters Patric Young and Casey Prather spent a large portion of the second half in foul trouble and UCLA trimmed the Florida lead all the way to one, but the Gators' experience and poise pulled them through.

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Florida came into the game with the third-best scoring defense in the nation and its toughness on that end of the floor frustrated a UCLA team that averages 81.5 points per game. The Gators also played with stellar chemistry offensively, dishing 22 assists on 29 made baskets.

 With point guard Scottie Wilbekin struggling with his shot, Michael Frazier II came up big on the perimeter as he has done at times throughout the season. He knocked down five of eight 3-pointers and led the Gators with 19 points. Wilbekin scored 13.

Florida is 4-0 against UCLA with all four games eliminating the Bruins from the postseason, including a victories in the national title game in 2006, the Final Four in 2007 and a third-round game in 2011 in addition to Thursday's win.

UCLA star Kyle Anderson had 11 points, five assists and nine rebounds, but the Bruins were cold from the perimeter, making just three of 18 three-pointers. Florida also outrebounded the Bruins 40-30.

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Florida's Dorian Finney-Smith and UCLA's Noah Allen fight for a loose ball on Thursday. (USA Today)

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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