Sunday , Mar , 25 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Gators chomp Ducks, back in Final Four

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – The defending champions are back in the Final
Four.

Lee Humphrey nailed seven three-pointers — including several key buckets down
the stretch — to guide Florida past Oregon, 85-77, in the Midwest Regional
Final at the Edward Jones Dome. The Gators move on to Atlanta to take on UCLA
in a rematch of last year’s title game. Florida won that contest 73-57 to
capture its first-ever national championship.

Humphrey finished with 23 points and Taurean Green netted 21 for Florida
(33-5), which matched a program record for victories in a season, tying last
year’s mark.

Leader Joakim Noah posted a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds,
and Corey Brewer also scored 14 while coming up with a big block late.

“I’m so proud of these kids to get to this point and to have a chance to get
back to the Final Four,” said Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “Give Oregon a
lot of credit. They’re a very good basketball team, and we knew it was going
to be a battle.”

Aaron Brooks led all scorers with 27 points and Malik Hairston dropped in 18
for the Ducks (29-8), who were in the Elite Eight for the first time since
2002.

The early stages of the second half were nip-and-tuck, with Florida playing
front-runner for the most part but unable to gain any significant separation.
And, following a Brooks layup, the Ducks pulled even at 45-45 with about 17
minutes remaining in the game.

Green countered with five straight points, though — hitting a three-pointer
before slicing to the rim for a lay-in — to put the Gators ahead for good.

Humphrey caught fire from there to help grow the lead. After Maarty Leunen
moved his club back within three with a pair of free throws, the senior guard
dropped in a triple to make it 53-47.

The margin hovered around that mark for the next few minutes, until Humphrey
provided the defining sequence. He rose up and buried a three with just under
nine minutes to play, then after a Brooks turnover, hit another triple from
the right wing to push the advantage to 67-57.

Oregon tried to fight back in the game and cut it to six, 70-64, after a
Brooks bucket with about five minutes remaining. Al Horford drew a foul
moments later and made both attempts from the stripe, however, to put the lead
back at eight.

Some sloppy play by Florida allowed an opportunistic Ducks squad to creep back
in it, and Oregon cut it to four with about 30 ticks on the clock on a pair of
Brooks free throws.

Green then went just 1-of-2 from the line, and Brooks charged down the court
looking to make it a one-possession game. Brewer elevated and rejected Brooks’
shot, though, then hit two free throws at the other end to help ice the game.

“It’s been really rewarding,” Brewer said. “We love playing with each other,
and it feels so good to get back to the Final Four.

The Gators are now just two wins away from becoming the first team to win
back-to-back championships since Duke accomplished the feat back in 1991-92.

An entertaining first half ended with Florida clinging to a 40-38 advantage.

Humphrey and Brooks paced their respective clubs with 14 points apiece, as
neither team was able to gain much ground on the other.

A Humphrey three with 4:27 left put Florida up 33-27, only to see Brooks
rattle off five quick points to cut the deficit to one as the end of the half
neared.

Game Notes

This was the first-ever meeting between the two clubs…The Gators pushed
their postseason winning streak to 16 games…The Ducks were trying to advance
to the Final Four for the first time since 1939…Horford finished with six
points, seven boards and two blocks…Tajuan Porter had 10 points on just 2-
of-12 shooting for Oregon.

FLORIDA OREGON