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Shooting star

Humphrey heats up as Gators cruise into title game

Posted: Saturday April 1, 2006 11:08PM; Updated: Saturday April 1, 2006 11:08PM
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Lamar Butler; Lee Humphrey
Lee Humphrey and the Gators drained 12 3-pointers, compared to two by Lamar Butler and George Mason.
John Biever/SI
SI.com's Final Four Coverage

INDIANAPOLIS -- Florida coach Billy Donovan has a saying he repeats to his team over and over again about the quality of shots he wants the Gators to get: layups, dunks and Lee Humphrey.

Donovan knows his junior sharpshooter can heat up in a hurry and shoot opponents out of the game, and that when he squares up and fires he's usually money. That's exactly what Humphrey did to start the second half of the Gators' clash with George Mason in the national semifinal at the RCA Dome, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 16 of his game-high 19 points in the final 20 minutes to lift Florida to a 73-58 victory and end George Mason's magical run.

"I was feeling as good as I've ever felt shooting the ball," said Humphrey. "Even if my shots aren't going in -- and they weren't in the first half -- coach and my teammates tell me to keep shooting. As a shooter you always have to feel like your next shot is going in and when I hit two to start the second half I knew I was heating up. They were collapsing on our big guys and coach told them to post up deeper so they could kick it out. That's what they did and all I had to do was knock them down."

Added swingman Corey Brewer, "Humphrey is a silent assassin. He doesn't get much hype, but he wins games for the Gators."

Florida (27-8) managed to shake and overwhelm pesky George Mason and turn a five-point halftime lead into a rout by dominating inside with Joakim Noah and Al Horford, controlling the tempo and knocking down outside shots. In addition to Humphrey, Brewer (19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range) and point guard Taurean Green (15 points) took advantage when George Mason doubled down in the post.

"They were definitely worried about us inside," said Horford. "In the second half, we started to look for our shooters more. When they sagged in on us we made them pay. Lee was unbelievable, but he's done this the whole year. When he shoots, half the time I don't even go for the rebound because I'm so sure it's going in."

It's been quite a week for Humphrey. On Thursday night at the Final Four salute presentation he met his childhood idol, Peyton Manning (Humphrey grew up just outside of Knoxville), when in a surprise move host Jim Nantz brought out the Colts quarterback and called one player from each team up to the stage to meet him. Humphrey was awed by the moment and did his idol proud by shooting daggers in Manning's house on Saturday night.

"It was an awesome experience, something I'll always remember," said Humphrey of meeting Manning. "Up to that point, it was one of the best things I've ever experience. But this game, on this stage, beat that."