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Joakim Noah and his Gators took care of business Monday evening as they beat the Bruins 73 to 57 to win the National Championship.
The game was evenly matched and the Bruins had a chance to pull within single digits with two minutes remaining. The difference in the game was Florida’s defense as they blocked a lot of shots (10), forced the Bruins into turning over the rock (12 turnovers) and prevented UCLA from getting any good looks from beyond the three point arc.
The Bruins have a strong guard rotation with Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo who were able to score 28 combined points but these guys were unable to get the teams big men involved or get their shots off from beyond the arc. The Bruins went 3 for 17 from beyond the arc and if they had made a couple more of these shots the game might have swung in their favour. Instead, the Gators were able to convert a lot of those missed three’s into fastbreak points that they finished off for easy points.
Following the game Gators head coach Billy Donovan talked about his teams success being due to his players shutting down the Bruins guards. Donovan told Jim Nantz, “we did a pretty good job from the three point line defending and then offensively really shared it.”
Heading into the game writers had focused on Noah and with his strong play he proved why some scouts are predicting that he’ll be a top five pick. Last month I wrote a column about Noah being a top five pick and after tonight there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be a high draft pick after tonight. Some players like Ed O’Bannon used a strong tournament to leap up NBA Draft boards only to see their NBA careers fizzles. While a player like O’Bannon is seen by many to be a “tweener,” Noah has the size to be effective in the NBA playing a similar style that he did at Florida. One big man skill that he’ll bring to the NBA court from Florida is his exceptional shot blocking abilities. Tonight the kid set the record for block shots by the half with five and I’m sold on him as a shot blocker at the pro level. Other things that caught my attention while watching him play this season was his ability to grab tough rebounds, handle the rock and his court vision. Noah was a point guard in high school until he had a late growth spurt and tonight I saw some things handling the rock that I haven’t seen a big man do in awhile. Anytime you NBA teams can draft a 6′10 player who has great court vision, can handle the rock, block shots and grab rebounds they jump at the chance. Despite loving his teammates I would be shocked if Noah returns to Florida for another season of college ball.
Noah told Billy Packer following the game that, “we’re going to shine all day, all night! Please, don’t be mad at us if we don’t do our homework in the next couple of weeks.”
Are you kidding me Noah? You are now a star who can shine anytime he wants. With your status as a lottery picked locked in and your subsequent millions now guaranteed you won’t need to worry about homework any more.
Mon 04/03/06, 8:34 pm EST