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Florida once again gets best of Afflalo, UCLA

Apr 1, 2007 - 4:54 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The offensive attack might have been different, but Florida's suffocating defense had to be a familiar sight for Arron Afflalo and UCLA.

Corey Brewer hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points as top-seeded Florida once again manhandled No. 2 UCLA with a 76-66 victory in the NCAA Tournament's national semifinals.

Following up on last year's 73-57 rout of the Bruins in the national championship game, the Gators (34-5) moved another step closer to becoming the first team since Duke in 1992 to win back-to-back titles. They will face freshman sensation Greg Oden and Ohio State on Monday.

"This is what it's all about," said Florida forward Joakim Noah, last year's Final Four Most Outstanding Player. "We're really excited to be in this situation. We know it's not over yet. We're happy, but we're not satisfied."

That will be a rematch of an earlier meeting this season, when the Gators posted an 86-60 home victory on December 23. That result can be thrown out as Oden was still in the process of recovering from offseason wrist surgery.

"They are a very, very good team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said about Ohio State. "We had a chance to play them in December. At the time, he (Oden) was still shooting free throws lefthanded. It was a game, where our team and their team have probably gotten better as the season has gone on."

In the previous matchup with the Bruins in Indianapolis, UCLA had no answer for Florida's inside-outside attack while also being perplexed by the Gators' physical, smothering defense. That was never more apparent to star guard Afflalo, who managed just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

While Brewer, who had 11 points in the previous meeting, led a stellar 9-of-21 showing from the arc, Afflalo - the Pac-10 Player of the Year - was once again bottled up, collecting 17 points on 5-of-14 from the field only after a late flurry.

"We're very disappointed about losing tonight and being here for a second straight year without bringing home a championship," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "You have to credit them (Florida). They've been an outstanding defensive team here the last two years."

Arguably the top individual defensive player in the college game, Afflalo could once again pin his struggles on the presence of Brewer, who can rival the UCLA star with his defensive tenacity.

"He's one of those guys where, on defense, he doesn't need a lot of help," said Donovan about the 6-9 Brewer. "He has great range and great athleticism. He can get up close enough to you and make you take tough shots from the perimeter. He has enough foot speed that he can prevent you from going by you. He's as good as any defender I've been around and the biggest thing with him is that he takes pride in it as well."

Afflalo also had his hands full guarding Brewer, committing three fouls in the first half that limited him to five minutes and played a role in his offensive struggles.

"I committed some bad fouls, put my team at a disadvantage," Afflalo said. "Obviously that (also) took me out of my own little personal rhythm a little bit. I really wanted to be there for them and be that aggressive leader for them on both ends."

Noah and Al Horford, who combined for 30 points and 16 rebounds in last year's meeting, were nearly as dominant with the numbers, finishing with 17 points and 28 boards for the Gators.

About the only true difference between last year's matchup was turnovers, where UCLA committed three compared to 12 from the season before. Florida, which had six in Indianapolis, was plagued with 16 here.

Giveaways bothered the Gators early as they managed just five points in the opening 8 1/2 minutes. However, Florida took a 29-23 advantage into intermission behind 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting by Brewer.

"We're like any team - we all have weaknesses," Donovan said. "I think we turned the ball over at least 10 times in the first half. We took some good shots in the second and got settled in."

Although the Bruins (30-6) closed within 32-28 on a 3-pointer by Michael Roll 1:16 into the second half, the Gators quickly blew open the contest with a 12-0 run, pulling ahead 44-28 on a dunk by reserve forward Chris Richard with 13:51 remaining.

Florida eventually extended the lead to 54-36 after a three-point play by Richard before UCLA came alive when the outcome had been decided.

Prior to the Bruins scoring 16 of the game's final 24 points over the closing four minutes, the Gators stole the show with a series of follow dunks by Horford and Richard.

Noah also got into the act, getting fouled after he pulled in one of his 11 rebounds and scored on a layup. He completed the three-point play for a 65-50 advantage with 4:44 left.

Horford added a season-high 17 boards as Florida finished with a 43-26 margin on the glass.

Richard ended up with 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting and Lee Humphrey added 14 with four 3-pointers for the Gators, who improved to 25-7 in the NCAAs under Donovan, who is rumored to be Kentucky's top candidate for its coaching vacancy.

Josh Shipp, who missed last year's matchup with a hip injury, was the lone bright spot for the Bruins, finishing with 18 points and five assists.

Bruins cat-quick point guard Darren Collison also endured a nightmare, finishing with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting.

UCLA shot 39 percent (25-of-64), including a 5-of-23 showing from the arc.

    --- --- -----
    UCLA 23 43 66
    FLORIDA 29 47 76 FINAL

    Mar 31 10:59 PM

    NCAA BB (2) UCLA 23

    Mar 31 9:41 PM
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    RUWTbot Added 59 roots

    UCLA vs. FloridaMar 31 8:48 PM