SENIOR GUARD Lee Humphrey isn't an Oh-Four, but he might as well be an honorary member. And while Florida's juniors didn't flinch in the team's 76?66 semifinal win over UCLA, it was Humphrey who broke open a Final Four game with a barrage of second-half three-pointers for the third straight time. "If we're all hitting our threes, it makes us tough to guard, because our bigs can score as well," said Humpty, whose trio of second-half treys (and 14 points) were the result of UCLA's decision to double-team Florida's post players.
As Gators fans partied in the lobby of the downtown Marriott after the game, the Florida coaching staff ( Donovan and assistants Donnie Jones, Larry Shyatt and Lewis Preston) gathered in a meeting room to discuss a game plan for Ohio State. Seated in front of the TV with a remote in one hand and a legal pad in his lap, Donovan started the DVD from the Gators' 86?60 win over the Buckeyes on Dec. 23 in Gainesville. As the clock struck 2 a. m., they noticed a few weaknesses they hoped to exploit: that point guard Mike Conley Jr. was less effective driving to his right than to his left and that Ohio State's defenders hardly ever double-teamed in the post. "I think our guys can get some good looks inside," Donovan reasoned.
But they had plenty of concerns, too, not least the Buckeyes' rising confidence (from a 23-game winning streak) and their lethal fast break. Perhaps most surprising was that the Gators' coaches were more worried about Ohio State's transition game than about 7-foot freshman center Greg Oden's inside presence. "Their speed and spacing are incredible," said Donovan, deciding not to roll out Florida's own formidable running game. "We have to slow it down."
"We've got to take away their transition. Key to the game," said Shyatt, one of the nation's top defensive minds, who suffered a bizarre mishap just after 2 a.m. when his dental bridge popped out while he was munching on some Jujubes. Shyatt showed the bridge to everyone in the room ("That's awesome," Donovan said) before bolting down the hall, where his brother-in-law, a dentist, was able to snap the bridge back in so Shyatt could return to work, breaking down film.
On the night of the final the Gators' strategy worked to perfection. Florida elected not to double-team Oden, the better to let its perimeter defenders prevent Ohio State from taking easy three-pointers. And while Oden had a monster game, piling up 25 points and 12 rebounds, the Buckeyes' futility from three-point range was epic. "We felt like their two-point shots couldn't beat us, so we wanted to take away the three," explained Brewer, who kept sharpshooting guard Ron Lewis from making a single trey in just four attempts.
In the end, it was the Gators' attention to Lewis and a thousand other tiny details over the past two years that left us with the singular impression of a transcendent team for the ages. As he walked off the Georgia Dome floor on April 2, Noah gazed skyward and issued a plea. "Remember us! Remember us!" he screamed to the heavens. "We belong with the great ones!"
Yes, you do. Trust us: Nobody will forget the History Boys.
NCAA NATIONAL SEMIFINAL
Florida 76, UCLA 66
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Percentages: FG: .391, FT: .846.
3-point goals: 5?23, .217 (Affalo 3?9, Collison 1?6, Roll 1?4, Shipp 0?4).
Team rebounds: 0.
Blocked shots: 0.
Turnovers: 3 (Affalo, Mbah a Moute, Westbrook).
Steals: 6 (Shipp 4, Aboya 2).