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April 04, 2006 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-04

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Tuesday
April 4, 2006
sports. michigandaily. com
sports@michigandaily.com

eRTicSigan Iaiig

10

- - - ------ ----

Florida rises above madness

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Game, set,
match - and a championship, too - for Joa-
kim Noah and the Florida Gators.
Noah dominated UCLA
with 16 points, nine
rebounds and a record six
blocks Monday night to key
a 73-57 blowout that gave Florida its first national
title in basketball and officially wiped away its
reputation as only a football school.
Many thought it couldn't be done when Billy
Donovan took over a basketball program that was
almost an afterthought 12 years ago.
"Our faculty rep said to me before the game that
when you start with something from scratch and
you build it up to win a championship, that's some-
thing special," Donovan said.
For 40 lopsided minutes, the Gators (33-6) were
too big, too long and too quick for UCLA, which
came up one win short of its 12th national title
on a night when legendary coach John Wooden
watched from a hospital bed in Los Angeles after
being admitted for an undisclosed illness that was
said not to be serious.
The Gators and Noah, voted most outstanding
player in the Final Four, won by putting on a thor-

ough display of versatility and unselfishness, this
team's trademark all season.
The Bruins (32-7) were on a defensive tear com-
ing into the championship game, shutting down
Louisiana State's Glen Davis in the semifinals and
allowing a total of 90 points in the last two games.
Florida, though, was just too much to handle.
Noah capped it off with a monster dunk with
1:09 left. When the buzzer sounded, he lay flat on
his back at halfcourt and let the confetti rain on
him. His teammates were in a pile a few feet away,
and Donovan was sharing hugs with his longtime
assistant Anthony Grant.
"We're going shine all day, all night," Noah
said. "Please don't be mad at us if we don't do a
little homework the next couple of weeks."
The Gators won this by taking it right to UCLA
early, looking down low to Noah, Corey Brewer,
Al Horford and senior Adrian Moss, making the
extra pass in the key and finishing with 21 assists,
10 of them from their frontcourt.
"They made it very difficult for us to get pre-
pared," Donovan said. "Just trying to space the
floor. And you have to extra pass against them."
It couldn't have been what UCLA coach Ben
Howland expected had he scouted Florida's 73-

Michigan Daily
Challenge winner
Nate Mosher won the Michigan
Daily's bracket challenge. Mosher's
bracket totaled 87 points. The winner
had UCLA losing to Connecticut
in the championship game.
58 win over George Mason in the semis, a game
the Gators won from outside and that guard Lee
Humphrey ended early in the second with three
straight 3-pointers.
The scrappy Humphrey, the only non-sopho-
more in the Gators' starting five, did the hon-
ors again in this one, spotting up for open looks
against a collapsing defense early in the second
half. His first 3-pointer, 80 seconds into the half,
gave Florida a 39-25 lead and forced Howland to
call timeout. A sloppy offensive possession ensued,
then Humphrey came back with another three.
See GATORS, page 11

al

More than one shining moment

i ts funny how things work out sometimes.
In the early stages of the season, if a game that pitted UCLA against
Florida - the nation's 18th- and 39th-ranked teams, respectively to
begin the season - was on television, I'd probably opt to see if poker was
on ESPN2.
The two teams seemed to be the essence of mediocrity.
The Bruins had a promising backcourt but had way tooD
many injuries and inexperience to deal with. i
The Gators, too, had many more questions than answers. "

So, in decreasing order, here are the Big Dance's top-five shining
moments:
5. BIRTH OF BIG BABY: No, Glen Davis wasn't just born. If that were the
case, I'm sure women who have given childbirth before would currently be
sending care packages to the mother of this behemoth of a
man.

Lii~

-i W w
w Floor
icott Bell

Instead, March Madness gave birth to Davis's stardom.
Not only did the draft stock of this 300-pound center rise as
Louisiana State advanced in the Big Dance, but so did his

They had no go-to player and also had to deal with critics who claimed they
were too young.
But strong finishes to the regular season and solid play throughout the
first two and a half weeks of the Tournament can change people's minds
pretty quickly.
Last night, Florida claimed its first National Championship and was
crowned hottest of the hot teams.
Are the Gators the best team in the nation? Highly debatable. But the fact
is, they did what no other team could do: run the table on the game's biggest
stage.
As CBS's "One Shining Moment" montage scrolled across the screens of
millions of television sets, it was hard for me to concede that there was just
one single shining moment that resulted from this Tournament.
This year brought some of the Big Dance's greatest games in recent
memory. So narrowing all of the great games and plays down to one single
moment would fail to do this tournament justice.

media visibility. Whether it was talking about the tapeworms in his belly or
dressing up in a feather boa and acting like a stripper, there was never a dull
moment with Big Baby.
4. CINDERELLA, PART ONE: Before George Mason's miracle run, the North-
western State Demons were America's darling. They knocked off a senior-
laden third-seeded Iowa Hawkeye squad in the first round thanks to the
Tournament's most memorable shot.
Jermaine Wallace's fallaway 3-pointer from the left corner sent the
Demons into the second round and into March Madness bracket-buster lore
forever.
3. No mo' No. 1: Many thought all four of the No. 1 seeds could make
the Final Four for just the second time in Tournament history. Instead, Con-
necticut looked disinterested, Duke could only go as far as J.J. Redick (3-for-
18 against Louisiana State) could take it, and Memphis and Villanova were
overmatched against the two teams which made last night's final game.
See MOMENTS, page 11

0

AP PHOTO
Florida's Joakim Noah scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds In the Gators' 73-57 victory over
UCLA last night. The win marked Florida's first national championship in men's basketball. Coach Billy
Donovan also won his first championship in his second Final Four appearance as a coach.

1

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