- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007


The Gators had an unconventional response to the Buckeyes center who plays in a conventional manner — the 3-point shot.

While the Buckeyes controlled the three-second lane with Greg Oden, the Gators answered with a flurry of a 3-point field goals at the Georgia Dome last night.

And it really wasn’t all that close: the Gators 84, the Buckeyes 75.

Basketball’s conventional wisdom inevitably favors the team that controls the area around the basket.

The Buckeyes did just that and never could make a serious run on the Gators because of the assault from the 3-point line. The Buckeyes outscored the Gators 48-22 in the three-second lane.

Oden made Joakim Noah disappear — in foul trouble and in a game-long funk.

But Oden could not make Lee Humphrey, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green go away.

They combined to shoot 10 of 18 from the 3-point line.

Every time the Buckeyes appeared on the verge of pulling back into the game in the second half, Humphrey, in particular, seemingly would respond with a 3-pointer that would take the life out of the Big Ten team.

Humphrey, the unheralded member of the Gators, has been an indispensable part of the team’s national championship runs the last two seasons.

He may not be an NBA prospect — not quick enough to defend and create his own shot — but he has hit one big shot after another for the Gators in the last two postseasons.

The Gators threatened to bury the Buckeyes in the first half, when Humphrey, Brewer and Green each hit a 3-pointer to stake the Gators to a 33-22 lead with 3:50 left.

That scoring sequence haunted the Buckeyes the rest of the way.

The Gators pushed the ball at every chance in order to wear down Oden.

Gators coach Billy Donovan also ran his frontcourt players in and out of the game to keep them fresh and to pressure Oden.

This two-prong strategy was effective at times against the 7-foot center, although Oden certainly imposed his will on the proceedings.

Yet Oden also had those moments of fatigue, of gasping for every breath, of being unable to keep up with the frenzied style of the Gators.

The Gators hit 6 of 9 3-point attempts to take a 40-29 lead at halftime.

The Buckeyes had made it a habit of rallying from significant deficits in the NCAA tournament. But they had not trailed someone as polished and experienced as the Gators in the single-elimination event.

The Buckeyes could not find the basket from the perimeter, while the Gators were dumping shots almost from Philips Arena next door.

The Buckeyes made only 2 of 12 3-point attempts in the first half.

Oden was the only effective element of the Buckeyes. But he had to be industrious against the attentive Gators. Each of the Gators’ frontcourt players was not reluctant to employ his fouls on Oden.

The wild-haired Noah even employed the knee-against-the-backside defensive maneuver against Oden and then wondered how the referee could cite this as an infraction.

In the pre-game build-up, Buckeyes guard Ron Lewis suggested the Gators were merely a good team, not a great one.

His was an assessment based not on pure basketball strengths but school pride and a budding rival.

The Gators defeated the Buckeyes 86-60 in December.

The Gators’ football team then overwhelmed the Buckeyes by 27 points in early January to claim the national championship.

A geographically incorrect rival crested with the basketball showdown here between these two traditional football powers.

No one with the Gators took issue with the comments of Lewis.

They knew the issue would be decided on the floor.

And it was.

To the Gators it went.

They cut the nets and celebrated the night away.

And they again hoisted a national championship trophy at the expense of the Buckeyes.

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