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April 3, 2006

One team played the other's defense

INDIANAPOLIS - UCLA looked in a mirror Monday night, and what the Bruins saw was Florida.

The Gators showed UCLA exactly what the Bruins had been doing to get to the NCAA championship game: a hand in everyone's face and plenty of blocks. It was the Bruins, trying to win a record 12th championship, who got UCLAed.

So Florida finally knows what its like to win a national title game after the 73-57 victory, and UCLA knows what it's like to play itself.

In the regional final win over top-seeded Memphis and the semifinal victory over LSU, UCLA allowed 90 points. Not to each team, to both: 45 apiece.

Florida had that many with 16:04 to play in the championship game.

To see how much UCLA coach Ben Howland didn't like seeing his team go against a replica of his own, check the timeouts.

His first came before the first media timeout of the game. Taurean Green hit a jumper 3:48 into the game to give Florida an 11-6 lead and Howland called a timeout. He used another with 4:04 left in the half, again just seconds before a media timeout would have be called at a dead ball. This time his team was down 34-22.

Instead of the 2:45 he had to talk with his team at the first timeout, or the 30 seconds he had with the second, Howland had a whole halftime to talk with the Bruins and get them back to stopping Florida the way the Gators were stopping UCLA.

While the UCLA dance squad was entertaining the fans and players from the 1966 Texas Western team were being introduced to the crowd at the RCA Dome, Howland had a chance to talk with his team.

Whatever was said apparently didn't get through.

Lee Humphrey, whose 3-point barrage at the start of the second half against George Mason was the key to Florida's semifinal win, hit one from beyond the arc just 1:23 in.

Timeout UCLA.

Humphrey hit another 3 to make it 42-25 and when he struck again from 3-point range, Howland called another timeout. There was 16:04 left in the game and UCLA was down 45-27.

Florida had that magic number of the last two games - 45. The second half had barely started and UCLA's night was practically over.

The rest of the game was a Florida dunkfest.

No need for any more timeouts. UCLA had seen what it looked like in its run to a 16th Final Four.

UCLA held its opponents in the tournament to 36 percent shooting from the field. That's what the Bruins shot Monday night.

UCLA held its opponents in the tournament to 18 percent shooting from 3-point range and an average of 2.2 per game. The Bruins shot 18 percent from beyond the arc Monday night and made three 3s.

The championship game was supposed to be a defensive matchup. Florida lived up to its end by looking like UCLA.



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