- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS — When Florida needed an offensive spark against George Mason, it didn’t turn to forwards Joakim Noah and Al Horford, nor did it rely on point guard Taurean Green.

Instead, the Gators put the ball in the hands of junior sharpshooter Lee Humphrey, and he did not disappoint.

Humphrey made three 3-pointers to open the second half, then added two more at critical junctures later in the game, as the third-seeded Gators defeated 11th-seeded George Mason 73-58 in the first semifinal last night at the RCA Dome.

Humphrey scored 19 points (16 in the second half) for the Gators (32-6), who will meet UCLA, which defeated LSU 59-45 in the second semifinal, in tomorrow’s title game.

“Coach [Billy Donovan] always does a great job of instilling confidence in me, showing that the team has confidence in me as well,” Humphrey said. “I did feel good shooting the ball in the second half.”

Florida started to pull away late in the first half when Green made two 3-pointers to give the Gators a 31-26 lead at the break. Yet it was Humphrey who quickly asserted Florida’s superiority when the teams returned from the locker room.

Humphrey, who had gone 1-for-5 in the first half, made 3-pointers on the Gators’ first two trips down the floor to more than double the lead. After George Mason’s Jai Lewis made a pair of free throws, Humphrey responded with another 3-pointer to make it 40-28.

“Those three 3s that he hit were big,” Green said. “It just opened up the game.”

The lead hovered around 15 for much of the half, though George Mason eventually was more effective inside after the Gators quit doubling on big men Lewis and Will Thomas. That prompted Donovan to call a timeout, after which Humphrey canned a 3-pointer that whirled around the rim.

As Humphrey scorched the Patriots, George Mason could do little from beyond the arc. The Patriots had relied on the 3-pointer to create opportunities for its big men throughout the tournament, but they did not convert a 3-pointer until Tony Skinn made one with 6:01 left.

Even that highlight elicited a response from Humphrey, who managed to find open looks late in the game despite his sizzling shot. Humphrey swished another 3-pointer with 5:42 remaining to bump the lead back to 64-50.

“Not many teams shoot 48 percent against us,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “A lot of the credit I think has to go to Lee Humphrey.”

Humphrey has occasionally produced such outbursts, scoring 25 points in the SEC semifinals against Arkansas and another 20 in the Gators’ NCAA opener against South Alabama.

Yet it hasn’t been a perfect season for Humphrey, who separated his right shoulder in a bicycle accident in late January and missed a Jan.31 game against Mississippi. He slowly worked his way back, but his shooting was shaky as he came off the bench the next six games.

Humphrey hasn’t struggled much since then, re-emerging as a dangerous perimeter presence and an underrated defensive player as well. Humphrey helped the Gators shut down George Mason’s outside shooting, but he will be remembered for his offensive contributions against the Patriots.

Humphrey finished the night shooting 6-for-12 from the floor, with none of the attempts inside the 3-point arc. The Gators won’t complain, especially since it earned them a national title game berth for the first time since 2000.

“Every time Lee shoots it, I think it’s going in,” Green said. “He’s just that good a shooter. When he gets it going, you can just tell by the way he releases it because every time he shoots it he knows it’s going in. In his head, he’s like, ‘That’s good.’”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide