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Final 4 games
College Basketball Daily 2005 - last year's road to the Final Four, game recaps and results of the tourney through the finals.
Final: Florida (33-6) 73 UCLA (32-7) 57: Gators dismember dormant Bruins
by Rick Gagliano | 4/3/06
The UCLA squad can now go back to sleep until October because the Florida Gators outran, outhustled and outplayed them on college basketball's biggest stage.
From very early in the game it was obvious that the Gators were quicker and seemed more motived, more enthused, than the sleep-walking Bruins. Before the UCLA players could find their defensive footing, Cory Brewer and Joakim Noah were tearing them up. By the half, the Gators held an 11-point lead and it never got any better for the overwhelmed Bruins.
Opening the second half as he did in the semi-final against George Mason, Lee Humphrey popped two three-pointers to push the Florida bulge into the teens. With fifteen minutes remaining, it was evident that UCLA was not going to come back once more. Florida was rolling and playing brilliantly on both ends of the floor.
After Humprey's 3's, 9 of Florida's remaining 12 baskets were dunks. The Bruins simply could not keep up and defend in the paint.
Joakim Noah, named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, blocked 6 shots, a finals record, to go with his 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. He and Al Horford dominated the interior and Cory Brewer manhandled Bruins' shooting guard Arron Afflalo into a 3-10 shooting performance. Afflalo didn't score until the second half.
As much as Noah was the story of this game and maybe the entire tournament, Brewer was an enormous key to the Gators' championship. Though he only had 11 points, his stats were all about hustle: 7 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot.
Humphrey poured in 15, Horford, 12 and senior sub Adrian Moss added 9. Point guard Taurean Green finished with only 2 points, but tallied 8 big-time assists.
For the Bruins, only Jordan Farmar had a decent game, scoring 18 points, mostly on drives in the lane. He, like the rest of his teammates, could not buy a three-pointer. Farmar had one early, out of eight tries. As a team, UCLA was 3-17 from outside the arc.
Billy Donovan, in his second finals, became the second youngest coach to win a championship. At 40, only Bobby Knight was younger (35) when he won with Indiana in 1976
Donovan also joins Dean Smith and Knight as the only coaches to have played in a Final Four and won a championship as a coach.
With their 16-point win in the final game, Florida continued a streak of lopsided wins. In their run to the title, only one game - against Georgetown - was close. Florida won that one by 4 points. Their other wins came by margins of 26, 22, 13 and 15, for an average margin of victory of 16 points. These Gators proved unstoppable and deserved the title.
by Rick Gagliano and Dave Rutherford | 4/2/06
National Championship, Indianapolis, IN, 9:21 p.m. ET
The two finalists for the NCAA Men's Division 1 basketball championship come into the game with decidedly different mindsets.
The bruising UCLA Bruins depend on defense to take the opposition out of its rhythm and game plan, while the flying Florida Gators rely on scoring from a variety of options to overwhelm opponents.
Neither team was widely expected to reach the finals, but are the two survivors of a Final Four in which each of the participants took out the #1 seed in their respective regions.
After Florida unceremoniously ended George Mason's run of upsets, 73-58, UCLA drilled LSU in the nightcap, 59-45.
Both contests were pretty much decided by half-time, or shortly thereafter.
Florida, which led by a 31-26 tally at the half, used consecutive 3-pointers by Lee Humphrey to open the second half and take control of the game. In UCLA's win, a 15-point lead at the half was all the margin the Bruins needed to salt away their 12th straight win and 32nd of the season. Florida has an identical 32-6 record and a 10-game winning streak.
With both teams registering double-digit wins, the contrast in style is evident in the stats. Florida shot 12-25 from three-point range to secure their win. UCLA held the LSU Tigers to 32% shooting, as their defense dominated once again.
The story line for the college basketball finale begins beneath the rim, focusing on the interior play of Florida's Joakim Noah and Al Horford, who will match up with the Bruins' big men, Ryan Hollins and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
This appears to be a draw on the inside, with each team possessing a player with bulk and one with moves, until the teams begin to substitute. UCLA can bring in a multitude of defensive stoppers, including Alfred Aboya, Lorenzo Mata and Michael Fey. The Gators have a shorter rotation which will see Adrian Moss and Chris Richard coming off the bench.
With the starters, depending on how the matchups evolve, Mbah a Moute may have trouble handling Noah, though on the other end, Hollins has a large reach advantage over Horford.
Possibly the most important matchup will be between the two teams' small forwards - Florida's Cory Brewer and UCLA's Cedric Bozeman. Brewer has a two inch height advantage at 6'8", though Bozeman is tough inside in addition to having a point guard mentality. Both can slash to the hoop and rebound, though Brewer has a better touch from the outside.
If Brewer demonstrates an ability to take it to Bozeman with any efficiency, expect the Bruins' top defender, Arron Afflalo, to be called on to shut him down. In this case, Boseman would operate against the less mobile Lee Humphrey, who, at 6'2" won't get many open looks from beyond the arc.
Florida's Taurean Green and UCLA's Jordan Farmar will likely guard each other, though Farmar will get plenty of help on switches and also with sub Darren Collison, who can match Green's speed. Farmar is a good enough defender to keep Green mostly in front of him and has a slight, 2-inch height advantage.
The Bruins' defensive attitude is to play rugged man-to-man defense, defend the three-point line and deny penetration. Of the outside players, Brewer and Green are the most likely to penetrate, but the Bruins can match them step for step.
Look for Florida to try to go inside to Noah, run when possible and hit a share of threes and mid-range jumpers. When the Bruins have the ball, they too will look inside for Rollins or Mbah a Moute from their flowing movement offense. The Bruins use plenty of picks, screens, good spacing and penetration to make opponents work hard on defense.
The guard play could be a problem for the Gators. Farmar and Afflalo can both penetrate and dish or finish or hit pull-up jumpers or threes. Bozeman and Afflalo are bigger, at 6'6" and 6'5", than the Florida guards, except for Brewer. Somewhere in this game, either Bozeman or Afflalo are going to get good looks at short range jumpers and three-pointers over shorter opponents, while the Florida Gators may be taking contested threes over taller, longer defenders.
If the perimeter plays out in this fashion, it's a huge edge to the Bruins, possibly as many as 15 points difference. Then it falls to the inside players to do their jobs in the paint. And demonstrated by their effort against LSU, they can play rough inside.
There are some intriguing stats coming into the game.
Florida has outrebounded every team they've played in the tournament except Georgetown, which featured a 7-footer in Roy Hibbert. UCLA's Rollins will have to block out and get up and down the floor well. The Bruins, on the other hand, have been outrebounded by Alabama, Gonzaga and Memphis, but finally did the job against LSU, winning that battle by 9.
In Florida's semi-final win, the Gators were lights out from 3-point range (12-25, 48%), but hit only 11 of 28 (39%) inside the three-point line.
UCLA had been horrifying at the free throw line until the LSU game, hitting 70%. The inside stat is that their wearying defense had an effect on the Tigers, forcing them into a sub-par 13 of 28 performance. The Gators have hit over 80% as a team from the charity stripe, clicking on 78 of 97 attempts. It will be interesting to see if UCLA can keep their foul shooting in a good range and cause Florida some tired legs, which can affect foul shots.
UCLA's Ben Howland and Florida's Billy Donovan are both exceptional coaches with more greatness ahead for both of them. This is Howland's first Final Four and championship trip, while this is Donovan's second trip to the championship game with the Gators. His young Florida team lost in the 2000 finals to Michigan State, 89-76.
The Bruins also have more depth and experience than the Gators, able to go ten deep into their bench. Florida's rotation is a solid seven and a shaky eight.
Both teams have been playing with leads in their last couple of games. Florida has really not been tested throughout the tournament, except against Georgetown, beating teams seeded 14, 11, 7, 1 and 11. UCLA's wins have been against teams seeded 15, 10, 3, 1 and 3.
While both teams beat #1 seeds, Memphis might have been the best of the four #1's in the tournament, while Villanova (Florida's victim) may have been the most flawed, with no serious inside presence. Memphis will end the season with the best record in Division 1, 33-4, with losses only to Duke, Texas, UAB and UCLA against them. The Bruins certainly proved they were for real, avenging an 88-80 loss in November to the Tigers.
Then there are the intangibles. UCLA might not have even made it this far if not for some inspired play against Gonzaga, in which the Bruins scored the last 11 points of the game. Since that game, it's like the Bruins turned a defensive switch on, believing that nobody can beat them to the hoop and that they can shut down any offense.
In their wins over Memphis and LSU, the Bruins have allowed just under 32% shooting (34-104) and under 10% (2-23) from beyond the arc. If there's an intangible element, it's that UCLA came of age against Gonzaga, allowing them to make the leap from best in the West to best in the nation.
UCLA also has a storied history, as they are 11-1 in championship games and seek their 12th national basketball title. Florida has never won a national basketball championship.
Defensive fundamentals, coaching, depth and history should bring another trophy to the UCLA campus.
Also see related: Dave Rutherford's Final Four Stat Pack.
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