Gator Glory: Florida pounds UCLA to become national champs
Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) – Joakim Noah led the way with 16 points
and a record six blocked shots, as the Florida Gators captured their first
NCAA Tournament title in school history with a 73-57 victory over the UCLA
Bruins in the championship game at the RCA Dome.
Florida’s only other appearance in an NCAA final was in 2000 when the school
lost to Michigan State. However, the program hit its high point six years
later under the guidance of Billy Donovan, who at 40-years-old became
the second-youngest active coach to win a national crown. Bobby Knight won the
title at age 35.
Lee Humphrey added 15 points, Al Horford had 14 and Corey Brewer scored 11
for Florida (33-6), winners of the SEC Tournament who won their final 11
games. The Gators beat South Alabama, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Georgetown,
Villanova and George Mason on the way to the final.
Jordan Farmer scored 18 for the Bruins (32-7), who came into Monday with the
nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games, but failed in their bid for a
record 12th title. The Bruins fell to 11-2 in championship games, with their
only other defeat coming in 1980 to Louisville. Their last title came in 1995
with a win over Arkansas.
When the Gators reached 45 points on a three-pointer by Brewer with less than
17 minutes remaining, the Bruins knew it would be a difficult uphill climb.
UCLA, which was behind 45-27 at the time, had given up 45 points in each of
its last two games in the tournament, a five-point win over Memphis to get to
the Final Four and a 14-point triumph over LSU to reach the championship game.
Two straight three-pointers by Arron Afflalo had the Bruins within 57-43 with
nearly nine minutes left, but Noah, who ended with a record for blocks in a
championship game, came right back down the floor and jammed.
UCLA managed to cut its deficit to 12 points a few times, the last at 65-53
following a bucket from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but Humphrey came back with
the dagger, a three-pointer from the right wing with 2:05 left.
An 8-2 run by Florida opened a 25-15 lead. Bruins center Lorenzo Mata picked
up his third foul with eight minutes left in the half with UCLA behind 27-17.
The Bruins had a hard time scoring inside, and outside for that matter,
shooting 29.6 percent to 44.4 percent for the Gators in the first 20 minutes.
UCLA turned the ball over eight times in the first half.
The Gators led 36-25 at the break and stretched that advantage to 20 nearly
six minutes into the second half on a bucket by Chris Richard, moving the
score to 49-29.
Florida was the third seed in the Minneapolis region, while UCLA was seeded
second in the Oakland region..This was the first meeting between the two
schools…Florida is one of only three SEC schools to play for the national
title, joining Kentucky and Arkansas…Florida ended 20-0 against non-SEC
teams this season.