Forget tradition, this was about UF's transition
Published: Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 3:29 a.m.
There was a lot of Gator dancing to finish off the Big Dance.
Taurean Green's little two-step — a la Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves six years ago — as the clock ran down just before he nearly threw the ball out of the RCA Dome.
I need a ruling on what Corey Brewer was doing with his feet as he blew kisses to the crowd. Chris Richard and Adrian Moss had it going. And assistant coach Larry Shyatt, as he began to hug Billy Donovan, was jumping up and down like a kid at Christmas.
I'm not sure I have the words to describe what happened Monday night, but I'll try.
Florida beat UCLA to win the national championship.
Give the Gators credit, they know how to break through. They beat their arch-rivals 10 years ago for their only football crown, then beat the most storied program in the history of the sport for their first college basketball championship.
Check that — demolished UCLA.
Because this wasn't about tradition. It was about transition.
Over and over, they kept beating the Bruins' press to score easy baskets. Nine of the Gators' last 11 buckets were dunks.
And if it was about defense, only one team showed up. UCLA was supposed to be the great defensive team, but it was the Bruins who were intimidated under the basket and denied on the perimeter.
“Just how good UCLA's defense is was well documented,” Billy Donovan said. “But I think we play pretty good defense as well.”
With the Final Four's most outstanding player Joakim Noah breaking the championship game record with six blocked shots, and the guards hounding UCLA's outside, Florida led by 11 at the half and 20 midway through the second.
From that point on, it was just a matter of time until the confetti cannons went off.
“Their defense was terrific,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
“It was a team effort,” Noah said. “Corey (Brewer) and Humpty Dump (Lee Humphrey). You think all he does is shoot threes. He was a monster on D tonight.”
They were all monsters. Adrian Moss closed out his Gator career with his best game ever. Richard, Walter Hodge, they all had something to do with it.
With the dancing. And with the incredible feeling that Noah had, laying on the floor of the RCA Dome in a dogpile of teammates with confetti landing all around him.
“It's indescribable,” Noah said. “It's the best I've ever felt in my life. You work so hard for these moments. So much sweat and tears.
“It's like you're in a cloud. Not only does it feel good, it smells good and tastes good. I don't know how to describe it. I'm in a state of shock.”
It's always so sappy, so cheesy. “One Shining Moment” playing over the highlights on CBS as the new kings of college basketball are still celebrating.
This time, you wanted to turn it up to 11.
Because the Gators not only won the national title, they did it by doing everything right.
“I told these guys before the game it was going to come down to everything we talk about being,” Donovan said.
If there was any question about their attitudes coming into this game, it was evident at about 2:30 in the afternoon after the Gators finished their shootaround and waited to board the team bus back to the hotel. Just as the doors opened, another bus pulled up to unload the UCLA team.
The Gators never turned around, never acknowledged the Bruins. No chat about old AAU games or recruiting visits. For one of the loosest teams ever, this night was all serious.
OK, except for Noah blowing a member of the UCLA dance team a kiss during a break in the action.
But that's just part of the swagger, the confidence, the something extra these guys had all year.
And Billy was right. It wasn't just this game but every game. A lot of shining moments.
This one brightest of all.
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