Notes from the NCAA Championship: Florida vs. UCLA
– Due to a mistake in the listed schedule, I arrive just in time to see the game start, sparing my eardrums the beating Clark Kellogg hands out with his incessant yelling. It’s as if he’s forgotten that he’s wearing a microphone.
– The tip ricochets off of two players and ends up out of bounds having last touched Humphrey.
– UCLA’s first play culminates in an awkward leaning bank-shot by Jordan Farmar which somehow finds the mark.
– Florida’s first shot attempt is a three by Brewer which clanks off the back of the rim.
– Hollins commits an off-the-ball offensive foul at the other end to give it back to the Gators.
– Horford throws a beautiful pass out of the double-team to find Noah for an easy layup. They won’t be getting too many buckets like that tonight.
– UCLA are playing full-court man-to-man, but Florida seem not to be bothered by the pressure.
– Corey Brewer shakes his man and hits a fade-away in the lane to make it four apiece.
– UCLA’s cheerleaders still look far too happy for my liking. No normal people have that many teeth.
– Noah drives from the top of the key and dishes it out to Brewer, who knocks down a three with a defender all over him.
– Noah makes a gorgeous block and gather, then runs half the length of the floor before handing it off. The ball ends up with Green, who converts the three-point attempt to make it an 11-6 game. Unsurprisingly, UCLA requests a timeout.
– Mata grabs Mbah A Moute’s board and conspicuously shuffles his feet, prompting a travelling call.
– An advert is shown for the women’s 2007 NCAA tournament, and I realise that the only non-professional female player I can name is Candace Parker. If any of the others could dunk, I’d know who they were as well.
– Much has been made of UCLA’s watertight defence, but Florida haven’t had much difficulty finding easy looks thus far.
– On the inbounds play, the Bruins make a touchdown pass to Farmar, who finger-rolls it in to make it 13-8.
– Adrian Moss makes an immediate impact on the game on checking in, grabbing a board and putting in a short floater before drawing a charge seconds later.
– A textbook pick-and-roll leaves Hollins with a clear path to the basket for the two-handed dunk.
– Green makes a sharp touch-pass to Horford, who is fouled and barely misses the layup. He swishes both free throws.
– Horford cleans the glass and pushes the ball seventy feet down the floor before giving it up. I had seen him do it before, but I’d assumed it was a fluke.
– Horford makes a spectacular block, and the ball ends up with Corey Brewer, who hits an and-one layup on the break.
– At this point, the game is essentially a series of transition and secondary transition plays.
– Farmar loses his defender with a step-back move and hits the fifteen-footer.
– At the other end, Humphrey catches the ball on the wing and busts the straightaway three plus the foul. His free throw bounces high off the rim before dropping, completing the rare four-point play.
– Noah makes a clean block while falling down, regains his balance and snatches the rock from the middle of a crowd. He’s very young, but it’s not hard to tell that this kid could be something special.
– Humphrey shoots 46% from behind the arc and 55% from the charity stripe. I’ve never understood how players can do that.
– In one sequence, Mata blows a wide-open layup, grabs the board, has his shot blocked, commits a foul, and is elbowed in the head after the whistle. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him struck by lightning after that string of bad luck.
– A timeout is called with the Gators up 28-17. An eleven-point lead is nice to have at any stage of the game, but with the Bruins yet to play their best basketball, it’s not much of a margin.
– In one of the segments advertising the NBA shown in the commercial break, a voiceover refers to Shaq and Dwyane as “Shock and Wade”.
– Moss knocks one down from a step inside the arc, way outside of his normal range.
– Farmar hits one of his trademark threes over a high screen.
– Hollins gets a piece of Green’s shot, then receives a behind-the-back pass from Farmar on the ensuing break, missing a tricky dunk but drawing the foul. He converts both free throws.
– Noah makes a pretty bounce-pass out of the double-team to an open Horford, who drops it in for two points.
– Noah is consistently the first man down the floor in transition, showing great end-to-end speed for a player of 6’10’’.
– Noah might be good, but with Bill Russell, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all in attendance, he’s far from the best big man in the building.
– Noah swats yet another shot, and the commentators are talking about his chance of breaking the record for swats in the tourney final.
– Hollins blows a shot one foot from the hoop while looking over his shoulder for Noah. He’s altering shots even when he’s not in the paint now.
– Noah gets his hand to Farmar’s runner, tying the record for blocks in an NCAA final.
– Moss grabs a tough offensive board and is fouled as he lands. He hits both free throws, stretching Florida’s lead to eleven.
– Noah makes his fifth block, breaking the record seconds before the halftime buzzer. After twenty minutes of play, the score is 36-25 in Florida’s favour.
– Taking my customary halftime pit stop, I nearly knock the loose handle out of the door, which would have left me trapped in the bathroom until morning. If I’d had to spend the most exciting twenty minutes of the year’s basketball two feet from a toilet, I’d have cried like Adam Morrison.
– The crowd is disturbingly quiet at the start of the second half, somehow making me even more nervous.
– Brewer’s all over Farmar like stink on a stunk, tipping his pull-up jumper and causing it to airball. Humphrey hits a quick three on the consequent play, exactly as he did at the same point in Saturday’s game against George Mason.
– Florida almost forces a five-second violation on the inbounds play.
– Humphrey ices a trey from way beyond the top of the key, again echoing his performance two nights earlier.
– Seconds later, Hollins slams home a missed layup by Farmar, cutting the lead to fifteen.
– Noah makes one of his more common errors as he travels on the block under minimal pressure.
– Brewer knocks down a cold-blooded three, making it the Gators’ third converted triple of the second half already. This is looking suspiciously like the GMU game.
– Green is bumped several times while bringing the ball down the floor, then buffeted on all sides by a UCLA double-team without a call.
– Noah crosses over at the elbow, hesitates, picks the ball up, travels and dunks it. For the second consecutive Florida offence, the officials miss an obvious whistle, giving Noah two points instead of a walk. No referee wants to be noticed in the NCAA finals, but these two may as well be wearing camouflage for all their efforts not to be seen.
– Four shots are taken in under twenty-five seconds, two by each team. You have to love college basketball.
– Horford makes another pass over the double-team, this one leading to a wide-open dunk for Chris Richard.
– Hollins takes and makes a rare jumper to cut the Bruins’ deficit to eighteen.
– Florida’s defensive rotation is the best I’ve seen it all year, making it seem as if they have six players on the floor.
– Afoya catches a daring lob off the inbounds play and hammers it home with his nuts on the back of Noah’s neck. Florida may currently hold the lead, but UCLA have the highlight of the Final Four.
– Noah immediately compensates for his defensive lapse with a driving layup which rattles around the rim before dropping.
– With less than twelve minutes to go in the second half, Afflalo scores his first two points of the game from the free throw line.
– Afoya looks very rigid at the stripe moments later, shooting his freebies with a technique as ugly as the result (he misses both).
– The Gators run a one-off play which results in Noah curling out from a pick-and-roll, catching a pass on the cut and spiking it down.
– Farmar bricks an open look at the bucket from three, a bad sign for UCLA’s comeback hopes.
– Horford spins past his man on the block and packs it in for two.
– Afflalo finally finds his feet, running off a useful screen for the trey.
– Afflalo’s second three in as many offences finds the bottom of the net. As the commentator from NBA Jam would say, “He’s heating up!”
– Corey Brewer draws three defenders and throws a pass to a lonely Joakim Noah on the block, who eagerly stuffs it.
– In the timeout, the UCLA band plays what sounds like the sample from the score of Hitchcock’s Psycho used in Busta Rhymes’ Gimme Some More. I’m not sure where they’re going with that, but I like it nonetheless. Perhaps they’re planning to stab the Gators in the shower after the game.
– The Florida fans have broken out the patented “Gator clap” so often seen at the House of Horrors.
– Farmar hits a closely contested jumper as the shot-clock expires, making it a 59-45 game.
– Noah dribbles out of the press, draws two defenders and dishes off to Horford, who throws down another dunk.
– Farmar works his way inside and swishes a high-arcing shot over Noah to bring it back to fourteen.
– Noah catches the ball thirty feet from the goal and blows by Afoya, drawing a foul in the process. If he was trying to show NBA scouts his versatility, that should have done the trick.
– Horford is on the receiving end of yet another dime as he takes the rock beneath the bucket for his fourth dunk of the game by my count.
– Hollins challenges Noah and has his shot blocked and controlled, leading to another Florida break.
– Mbah A Moute catches a sweet scoop-pass under the hoop and throws it through to bring the Bruins within twelve.
– Noah blocks another shot, but Mbah A Moute gathers the loose ball and dunks it in one motion.
– Humphrey travels, dishes it off, takes the ball back at the arc and busts a triple. Twenty seconds later, the UCLA faithful are still lamenting the injustice.
– With ninety seconds left in the contest and a fifteen-point lead, the orange-and-blue section begins the celebrations.
– Humphrey breaks the UCLA press and finds Noah all alone in the key for a vicious jam. The roar from Florida’s student section can be heard all the way down in the Sunshine State.
– The courtside camera turns to Billy Donovan’s father, and he looks as if he’s about to burst into tears. If he begins to blubber, I might just join him.
– Horford keeps the crowd noisy with his umpteenth slam of the night.
– The coverage turns to the House of Horrors in Gainesville, and the fans looks as if they may cause some damage to the stadium roof with all their cheering.
– Green breaks into an impromptu dance with seconds left on the clock as Billy Donovan makes his way over to the Bruin bench. The buzzers sounds amid a sea of noise, the final score reading 73-57.
– Joakim Noah forces his way into the crowd to find his father, celebrating with the obligatory jersey pop on the way. Blue and orange streamers fall from the rafters, meaning that either the arena organisers are Florida fans, or that there’s a lot of yellow paper going to waste. Continuing their stellar coverage throughout the tournament, the channel carrying the games here in England chooses this moment to break for a series of hockey commercials.
– Noah uses his time on the microphone to tell his tutors not to be mad if he doesn’t do much homework in the coming weeks, then loses his thread and punctuates the speech with “Harlem, stand up!” I’m a little disappointed that he doesn’t have even a hint of his father’s French accent.
– They may have put in a slick performance in the preceding game, but the Gators have lost their composure at this point. Watching the winning team act a fool might be my favourite part of the tournament every year.
It’s now nearly six in the morning in the U.K., and with all the nervous energy I’ve expended watching the game, I’m totally spent, so that’s all you’re getting from me for now. As always, you can get at me via email ([email protected]) or the box at the bottom of your page if you have any comments, questions or suggestions. I’ll be back tomorrow with the second half of the retrospective on my preseason power rankings. Until then, take it easy.