|03-26-2006, 06:35 PM||#1 (permalink)|
MSgt USMC Ret
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: San Diego
I am sure by now you have all noticed my Gator Icon, but I had to post this
Noah's monster night sends Florida to Final Four
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Joakim Noah and the rest of Florida's sophomores were simply too strong for the last No. 1 seed standing.
With a 75-62 win over top-seeded Villanova in the Minneapolis Regional on Sunday, the young Gators are going to the Final Four a lot sooner than anyone would have thought.
Noah had 21 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks to lead the third-seeded Gators. Fellow sophomore Al Horford added 12 points and 15 rebounds and Taurean Green scored 19 points for the Gators (31-6), who will play No. 11 seed George Mason next Saturday in the national semifinals in Indianapolis.
This marks the first time since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that no top-seeded team advanced to the Final Four, and the second time in tournament history.
Villanova star Randy Foye fouled out with 28.9 seconds left and walked slowly to the bench to hug his coaches and teammates with tears streaming down his face. He carried the Wildcats (28-5) for the second time in three days, without any help from fellow senior Allan Ray.
Foye had 25 points. Ray scored 11 points, on 5-for-19 shooting.
This was Florida's eighth straight trip to the NCAA tournament under coach Billy Donovan, but so many of his previous teams -- minus the national runner-up in 2000 -- failed to fulfill their potential in the postseason.
This tight group of sophomores, led by the fiery, ponytailed Noah, vowed to change that after bonding during their first few weeks on campus. Despite a second-round loss in the tournament last year to Villanova, the Gators are a nation-best 15-1 in March over the last two years.
Noah and Horford were too tough for the Wildcats to use much of the flashy, four-guard attack for which they are known. Foul trouble made it impossible in the second half, as Foye drew his third at the 18-minute mark, Kyle Lowry picked up his fourth with 14 minutes left and Ray's third came soon after.
A smooth, sweeping layup across the lane by Ray cut the Gators' lead to 54-47 with 7½ minutes to go. But after a foul by Will Sheridan, a timeout, and two more free throws by Noah, it was a nine-point edge for Florida.
The cap came when Horford, slowly backing down with the ball in the post as if he were Charles Barkley, spun and dropped an easy pass on the baseline to Noah -- who powered up and dunked it for a 66-54 lead with less than 3½ minutes left.
Before that, every time the Gators opened up a healthy lead the Wildcats came right back.
Ray picked up an early technical foul during a brief tiff for holding the ball in the face of Florida's Walter Hodge, and the Wildcats lost some energy after that -- falling behind by as many as 12.
A foul by Ray a little later in the half sent him to the bench, and put Green on the line for three shots. Green made two of them to give the Gators a 31-21 lead with 5:46 left before halftime.
Despite shooting 21 percent from the field (8-for-38), Villanova refused to limp into the locker room with a double-digit deficit -- as it did two days before in a third-round win over Boston College.
Florida became a bit careless, started getting frustrated with the officials and struggled when the Wildcats used their full-court zone press with Mike Nardi pestering Lee Humphrey at the top. The Gators had 10 first-half turnovers.
Florida failed to make a field goal in the final 4:39, and all of a sudden the Gators led 35-30 at the break.
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