SAN DIEGO -- UCLA took the court on Sunday with an opportunity to satisfy its sweet tooth by advancing to its first Sweet 16 since 2008.
Pitted against the No. 4 seed Bruins in the Round of 32 matchup was No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin, which was coming off a thrilling upset of No. 5 seed VCU in overtime on Friday.
The Lumberjacks' win over VCU was only their first NCAA Tournament victory in program history, but they hadn't lost a game since Nov. 23 and carried the nation's longest winning streak of 29 games after No. 1 seed Wichita State's 35-game winning streak came to end against Kentucky earlier on Sunday.
Despite the discrepancies between seeds, height, and prior NCAA Tournament experience (UCLA's 46th NCAA Tournament appearance; SFA's second), UCLA dismissed the notion before the game that they felt they were the favorite.
Nonetheless, that assertion proved apropos from the onset.
Four seconds into the game, SFA's Nikola Gajic committed a turnover scrambling for opening tip. UCLA's Jordan Adams then found Norman Powell with an alley-oop that the junior guard laid in to immediately get the Bruins on the board.
Powell was a major factor for the Bruins on both ends as he was in UCLA's Round of 64 victory over Tulsa, in which he scored 15 points. He followed up that performance with 16 points on 6-for-9 on Sunday.
His consistent hustle exuded its game-changing capability when the 6-foot-4 guard from San Diego, Calif., netted a nifty behind-the-back layup and then denied an SFA pass on the defensive end on the Lumberjacks' ensuing possession.
"It was really instincts, seeing the way he played me," said Powell, who said he used the behind-the-back move often growing up, particularly in high school. "I was just happy to be able to complete the play."
Although SFA began the game shakily, the Lumberjacks didn't take long to shake off the jitters. Desmond Haymon and Thomas Walkup got SFA going on the offensive end with a combined 21 points in the first half.
"They really surprised us in the first half, so we had to come out in the second half and play really good defense," sophomore center Tony Parker said.
Despite the efforts of Haymon and Walkup, who rallied for 39 of SFA's 60 points, the Lumberjacks' leading scorer, Jacob Parker, was held to a mere five points on 1-for-7 after netting 22 points in SFA's win over VCU.
In all, the Lumberjacks shot 34 percent from the field amid the Bruins' 55-percent effort.
"We don't press teams ... but our length really causes problems," Powell said. "When you're playing with your hands up, it really takes the team out of what they want to do offensively."
The Lumberjacks threatened to nab the lead on a few occasions right before halftime, but couldn't supersede the Bruins, who had established a double-digit lead, 42-32, heading into the locker room.
SFA's inability to top UCLA became a common theme in the second half, as the Bruins became an uncontainable force that steamrolled the Lumberjacks.
The Southland Conference champions brought the deficit down to as few as seven points in the early stages of the second half, but UCLA quickly inflated its lead back to double digits thanks to the prolific offense of Kyle Anderson (15 points) and leading-scorer Jordan Adams (19 points).
UCLA not only dominated the paint as anticipated, with 42 points in the paint over SFA's 22, but also took careful care of the basketball.
The Bruins recorded a total of 22 assists and a mere three turnovers, making the Lumberjacks' 11 assists to eight turnovers irrelevant.
"A lot of credit to UCLA," SFA head coach Brad Underwood said. "They're a very, very good basketball team ... and they're going to have a chance to advance a real long way."
UCLA increased its lead to as many as 20 points, holding SFA to 10 points in the last eight minutes of the game.
The Bruins cruised to a 77-60 dismantling of the Lumberjacks, securing their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2008, when the Bruins made a run to the Final Four.
While UCLA was glad to have advanced to the next round in the Tournament, the team wasn't overjoyed to have made the Sweet 16. The Bruins remain focused on their ultimate goal of winning a national championship.
"It's good feeling, I can't lie," Anderson said "It's cool to get here. We haven't been here in a while. But, they don't hang Sweet 16 banners up in Pauley Pavilion."
UCLA isn't basking in their Round of 32 win as well because they will next play the No. 1 overall seed, Florida, in their Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday.
"It's a tough turnaround for us and we're going to play arguably the best basketball team in the country right now, but it's good to see us back in that mix and back in that discussion," head coach Steve Alford said. "That's what's been a lot of fun."
Florida has been a roadblock to UCLA's quest for a 12th national title in recent years.
The Gators have dominated the Bruins in their last three meetings in the NCAA Tournament. In 2006, Florida beat UCLA in the national championship game, and then a year later, it beat Ben Howland's squad in the Final Four.
Most recently, the Gators prevented UCLA from reaching the Sweet 16 in 2011.
Click "That's some good history," Parker said. "But we got 11 national championships, so that's good history, too."Here to view this Link.