April 2, 2006 in Sports

Title rivals boast defense

Jim O'Connell Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Florida’s Corey Brewer, left, and Chris Richard excel on defense.
(Full-size photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s either an even dozen for UCLA or the elusive first for Florida.

The Bruins and the Gators cruised into Monday night’s national championship game with strong defensive efforts. Saturday’s games weren’t the most exciting, but they did set up a bicoastal title game.

UCLA (32-6) beat LSU 59-45, while Florida (32-6) ended George Mason’s thrilling tournament run with a 73-58 victory.

UCLA has won a record 11 NCAA championships, the last in 1995 – the only one of the Bruins’ titles not under coach John Wooden.

This will be Florida’s second national championship game. The Gators lost to Michigan State in 2000 in the same building where they will try to win it all for the first time.

Both teams have been impressive on defense during the winning streaks that have taken them all the way to the final game of the college basketball season.

UCLA had allowed just one opponent to score more than 60 points in its 12-game tear to the title game and that was in the 73-71 regional semifinal win over Gonzaga. The Bruins have held opponents to 45 points in their last two games, a 50-45 win over top-seeded Memphis and the Final Four win.

Florida has held every opponent in its 10-game streak to fewer than 66 points.

It won’t be all defense.

Lee Humphrey had half of Florida’s 12 3-pointers in the semifinal. Florida grabbed 16 offensive rebounds while dominating the boards 40-27.

UCLA’s 59 points might not be much to brag about, but for the Bruins it was almost an offensive outburst. Jordan Farmar was 3 for 6 from 3-point range and freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was 5 for 9 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line while grabbing nine rebounds.

The game will feature good matchups at each starting spot.

Centers Al Horford of Florida and Ryan Hollins of UCLA will spend a good deal of time banging bodies down low.

The backcourts are among the best in the country. Farmar and Arron Afflalo both shoot well. Taurean Green is a solid point guard for the Gators, while Humphrey shoots better than 46 percent on 3-pointers.

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