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Just The Sports: Men's Basketball National Championship Recap

Just The Sports

Monday, April 03, 2006

Men's Basketball National Championship Recap

Florida vs. UCLA

Just like the national semifinal games before it, the championship game turned out to be a non-competitive blowout with Florida beating UCLA 73-57. While the final margin of victory came as a surprise to most of the viewers and prognosticators, another surprise was the way in which Florida won the game.

UCLA was the team who was supposed to play the suffocating defense, both on the perimeter and in the low post. It was the team who was supposed to harass Florida into shooting a low percentage from the field and into committing a lot of turnovers. Yet, it was the Florida team that did all those things. Florida took UCLA out of its offensive rhythm by changing up their defenses every couple minutes, one minute in a man defense and the next playing a zone. Even when UCLA was able to get the ball out in transition, there was Corey Brewer from Florida to swipe the ball from behind or Joakim Noah to block yet another shot or the rim to get in the way of an easy lay-up or a Florida player to take a charge. UCLA simply had no answers for the Florida defense.

The most telling statistic from the game to prove how effective Florida's defensive pressure was is that in the first half only three of the nine UCLA players who played even scored. Just like Florida took away George Mason's best offensive weapons in the previous game, it was able to stop two of UCLA's best players, Arron Afflalo and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Afflalo and Mbah a Moute, who combined to score 26 of the 59 points UCLA scored against LSU, did not even manage so much as a free throw until 11 minutes, 28 seconds and 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the game, respectively. Afflalo went on to tally 10 points while Mbah a Moute added 6.

For the Florida Gators, they could do no wrong on offense as well as defense. Every Florida low-post player was able to get easy shots in the paint. Taurean Green was a master at the point guard position dishing out 8 assists while only committing one turnover. And Lee Humphrey continued his hot Final Four 3-point shooting after he had struggled in the two games previous to the Final Four. Basically, every player who stepped on the court for Florida contributed. UCLA cannot make that same claim.

One aspect of the game which does not show up directly in the box store is the ease with which Florida was able to break UCLA's full-court press, which Howland implemented after the deficit became double digits in the second half. Whether it was the guards or the big men bringing the ball up the court against it, the result was the same. Florida got dunk after dunk after lay-up after open jumper as UCLA refused to get out of the press. Whether or not UCLA should have gotten out of the press earlier could be up for debate. What is not up for debate is that the better team won. And convincingly.


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