Florida's strategy worked to a T against the Bruins. Farmar's high pick-and-rolls were harmless, and to stymie UCLA's three-point threat, Donovan sicced the 6' 8" Brewer on Afflalo, who didn't score the first of his 10 points until 11:28 in the second half. Green went 1 for 9 from the floor, but he provided a dangerous spark all night. "Taurean was the one who ignited everything, because he forced them to put two guys on him," Donovan said, "and we threw the ball back to Jo, who was really able to put the ball down and create."
Even though Yannick's 1983 French Open championship took place two years before Joakim was born, he has seen the tape of his father's victory more than a dozen times. Whenever he watches, he'll replay the triumphant scene in which his grandfather Zacharie leaps out of the stands onto the Roland Garros clay and embraces Yannick before an adoring crowd. "Every time I watch, it gives me shivers," Joakim said last week. "It's pure, raw emotion. There's nothing fake about it."
Twenty-three years later, another championship moment between Noahs took place in the RCA Dome. In the delirium after the final horn, as a paper rainbow fell from the rafters, Joakim climbed into the Florida cheering section. He hugged his mother, then his sister, and then his father pulled him close until the two men were cheek to cheek. "Je suis fier de toi," Yannick whispered in his ear. "Merci, merci." ("I am proud of you. Thank you, thank you.")
"Je t'aime," Joakim replied. ("I love you.")
In Europe they have a way to hail transcendent performances, whether in an opera house or a sports arena. So bravo, Joakim. Bravo, Oh-Fours. And bravo, Gators. You are the 2006 national champions, and there's nothing fake about that.
[This article contains tables. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
NCAA NATIONAL SEMIFINAL
Florida 73, George Mason 58
Percentages: FG: .411, FT: .714.
3-point goals: 2-11, .182 (Skinn 1-4, Campbell 1-2, Butler 0-2, Norwood 0-2, Lewis 0-1).
Team rebounds: 2.
Blocked shots: 2 ( Thomas, Skinn).
Turnovers: 11 (Butler 4, Campbell 2, Skinn 2, Carter, Lewis, Thomas).
Steals: 8 ( Thomas 3, Lewis 2, Norwood 2, Skinn).
Percentages: FG: .434, FT: .789.
3-point goals: 10-25, .480 ( Humphrey 6-12, Brewer 3-6, Green 3-6, Noah 0-1).
Team rebounds: 4.
Blocked shots: 4 ( Noah 4).
Turnovers: 15 (Brewer 6, Noah 3, Horford 4, Green, Humphrey).
Steals: 5 (Green 2, Brewer, Humphrey, Noah).
Technical Fouls: None.