Loss stings Bruins despite turnaround

UCLA's big center Joshua Smith said losing in the tournament hurts more than he thought it would. Kim Klement/US Presswire

TAMPA, Fla.--This is a loss that will haunt the Bruins for a long time.

UCLA faltered down the stretch of its 73-65 loss to Florida on Saturday in the third round of the NCAA tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum, and nobody in UCLA's locker room said it would be easy to get over.

"It hurts," freshman center Joshua Smith said, his eyes red from tears. "I didn't think it would hurt this bad to lose in the NCAA tournament."

It can be viewed as a victory of sorts that UCLA rebounded from a 14-18 season last year, made the NCAA tournament and won a game, but the Bruins don't see it that way.

"We weren’t satisfied coming out here with just one win," guard Malcolm Lee said. "We’re UCLA, we’re expected to be in the finals or in the last little bit. Although we did bounce back, this one win is just not good enough. We felt like we could have gone farther."

Coach Ben Howland praised his team for improving throughout the course of the season and turning its untapped potential into a winning team.

"I think the improvement we made from last year to this year was enormous," Howland said. "Reeves, Tyler, Malcolm -- they are so much better right now than they were at this time next year."

That's still little consolation for a team that has no more games to play this season.

"Any time you end the season without winning a national championship, you have something better to strive for," forward Reeves Nelson said.