Monday, April 02, 2007

National Championship deja-vu: Gators best Buckeyes again

Florida 84, Ohio State 75
MOP: Corey Brewer

Whether it was monster dunks or killer 3s Corey Brewer was THE man for Florida in the Final Four

Greg Oden has a monster game but the depth of Florida, plus a huge differential in three-pointers spells doom for Ohio State.

I think it was Confucius who once said "give a monkey a typewriter and eventually he'll type a word."

If that's true then I must be a baboon with a Dell.

Wouldn't you know the one time I want my prediction to suck as bad as a new Jim Carey movie I not only nailed the winner (not too tough) but also the Most Outstanding Player and came within 12 points of the score. Not bad for the World's Worst Gambler/Prognosticator.

As fireworks go off in my quiet neighborhood celebrating the University of Florida's third national title in 15 months I am wondering how the Buckeyes could have lost a game in which Greg Oden not only stayed out of foul trouble but dominated the game with an impressive 25-point, 12-rebound, 4-block performance.

The answer is because we all know it takes more than one player to win a game like this, and although Oden played the game of his (brief) career in what was most likely his final collegiate contest, his supporting cast left him hanging when he needed them most.

Mike Conley chipped in 20 points, but most of them came either real early or too late. He also did not control the flow & tempo of the game like he had been doing so well for the past three weeks, probably because he, not Oden, got into early foul trouble. Meanwhile Big Shot Ron Lewis did his best Jeff Green imitation by disappearing for the second straight game; his miserable 12-point outing failed to give the Buckeyes a much-needed third offensive option, and the trio of Ivan Harris, David Lighty and Jamar Butler contributed a woeful 14 points.

The Gators not only had three options working on offense, it got double-digit scoring from four of its starting five, plus 8 points apiece from Joakim Noah and Chris Richard. Big Al Horford validated Dickie V's radio station slip that Billy Donovan told him Horford would be a higher draft pick than Noah as he led the team with 18 points and also grabbed 12 boards. But Lee Humphrey (14 pts), Taurean Green (16) and M.O.P. Corey Brewer (13 pts, 8 rebs) all hit big shots that kept the momentum going and the lead in double figures most of the night and were instrumental in nailing down the unit's second consecutive national championship. Brewer earned the MOP on the strength of his 32 points in the Final 4 and because his 3-trey, 11-point first half provided the spark the Gators needed to burn the Buckeyes.

The game was nip & tuck for most of the first half; Oden remained foul free and was having his way in the paint, Conley came out and scored 4 quick points and Ohio State led 11-9 nearly 7:00 minutes in. A quick 9-0 run, highlighted by five free throws, got Florida in front 17-11, but the resilient Buckeyes got back to within two, 24-22, with 5:39 left in the half when Harris hit his only three of the game.

That's when the wheels came off the Buckeye bandwagon, because Florida would go on to nail not one (Humphrey) not two (Brewer) but three (Green's turn) consecutive threes to blow the lead out to 11, 33-22, in the span of two minutes just before the half. Seven consecutive points by Oden before the break (he had 11 pts, 7 rebs & only 1 foul at halftime) made the score somewhat respectable at 40-29, but the message to Buckeye nation was heard loud and clear.

It was a nightmare scenario no Buckeye fan would ever want to imagine: even though your best player is having his best game, the other team is still better than your team.

The real difference maker in this one can be found at two lines on the court: Florida bushwhacked the Buckeyes from threeland, nailing a scorching 10 of 18 from beyond the arc while OSU was an atrocious 4-23 from deep AND the Gators ate up the Bucks from the charity stripe, hitting 22-25, many early in the first half, while OSU took just 17 free throws and made 11, many late in the game.

Four-for-twenty three from three. No lie my 10-year-old-son, who is less than 5-ft. tall and fresh off a broken hand, nailed three straight college threes the other day outside, and these young men could only manage to hit 17% of theirs. Awful.

An 18-point differential from three-pointers plus 11 more free throws made equals a 29-point edge for the better team.

In hindsight it's a miracle the score wasn't a lot closer to the football game's.

Now the Gators can bask in the glory of owning both of college athletics' most coveted crowns and be secure in the knowledge that the Ohio State Buckeyes are once again and at this rate probably always will be their bitches.

Blow, Gators!

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