Green, Noah: UF's yin, yang


Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 5, 2006 at 3:25 a.m.
They are so different in so many ways, the two sophomore brothers. One at 6-foot-11, the other 11 inches shorter. Joakim Noah is all about energy, pounding his chest after made shots. Taurean Green's facial expressions are just this side of bored.
But on a breathless Saturday night, the two Florida basketball players had a lot in common.
They were both virtually unstoppable.
Kentucky - a team which prides itself annually on defense - had no answer for either one of them, which is why Florida put 95 points on the Wildcats.
On an amazing night that was culmination of a recruiting poster for UF hoops, Green took the ball to the hole time after time - scoring, getting fouled or dishing to Noah.
To list the spectacular plays of the night, well, not enough room in this column. Noah's dunk on the in-bounds play, Corey Brewer's exclamation point of a dunk, Green's two 3s during the unbelievable 18-1 run in the second half that was largely responsible for the final blowout.
Green finished with 29, Noah with 26, everyone there with laryngitis. Green also had nine assists, showing that a true point guard can do just about everything.
The day was a celebration of what Gator basketball has become under Billy Donovan, from the GameDay love at 11 a.m. to the electric atmosphere that came with Saturday night.
For all of the students in full throat for a dozen hours and all of the hype and the feeling that this game was special, there was one thing that was most telling about Florida vs. Kentucky, round 1, 2006.
The game felt like it was more important for Kentucky.
Wow, when was the last time you could say that? But it felt that way.
Until, of course, it started.
Then, you saw that these Gators would let you know about the importance of this game. It brought to mind the line from "Miracle," how great moments are the result of great opportunities.
This was a great opportunity and they snatched it and ran like crazy.
Everyone knew that the Wildcats came in with five straight wins, but they came against the have-nots in a have-little conference and proved little. More than that, Kentucky came to Gainesville with a rare chip on its Big Blue shoulder.
Because Florida won two games in eight days against Kentucky last season. The Gators took something from the Cats that they believe is a birthright in horse country - the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
So they needed this game badly. As Dick Vitale said, it was a statement game for the Wildcats. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, he has heard this statement before during this season.
The real statement - Florida's team, unranked at the start of the season, reached 20 wins before the Super Bowl kickoff.
The pre-game chatter was about how badly Kentucky needed this game, but that didn't mean it was just another conference game for Florida. You saw that early, when Green used Smith's blue sports jacket as a rope ladder to get off the ground after getting knocked into the opposing bench. You saw the passion when fouls were called and shots trickled in. You saw the intensity with every possession.
Both teams knew that LSU had lost earlier in the day, meaning the winner of this one would pull within one game of the overall SEC lead. That was simply one more ingredient mixed into the big-game stew.
There were the boys from ESPN peering over the game's shoulder, perched in the southeast corner with judgmental eyes. There was the simplicity of the reality - that Florida-Kentucky is a true rivalry. Every team that has ever played in the SEC looks to Kentucky, because UK has been for 50 years what Florida was in football in the 1990s. Those two UF wins in '05 made it genuine.
And Saturday night made it a suddenly one-sided rivalry. Three in a row over Kentucky. Does it matter that the Wildcats are struggling?
Ask anybody who was there.

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