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Published: 4/2/2006

Final Four notebook: Gators understood Mason fascination

BY JOHN HARRIS
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Jai Lewis can only watch as Florida's Joakim Noah scores two of his 12 points from very close range in last night's national semifinal. Noah also had eight rebounds and blocked four shots. Jai Lewis can only watch as Florida's Joakim Noah scores two of his 12 points from very close range in last night's national semifinal. Noah also had eight rebounds and blocked four shots.
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INDIANAPOLIS - Florida coach Billy Donovan said he and his players never resented the attention given to George Mason prior to the Gators' 73-58 victory last night.

In fact, Donovan said he understands why underdog George Mason has been such a riveting and fascinating story throughout the tournament.

"There's no resentment on our team, our team feeling like they got all the attention," Donovan said. "To us, it's been the same thing all year long. Whether it said across their jersey Cinderella, George Mason or another team, for our basketball team, it's just a matter of going out there playing.

"Our kids were feeling the same thing that George Mason's kids were feeling. The feeling was not any different between teams. But because of Super Tuesday, all this ESPN, national TV stuff, the conferences that get the most exposure are the major conferences. Nobody in the United States had a chance to watch this team [George Mason] play."

THIS AND THAT: Florida outscored George Mason 36-6 on 3-point field goals. The tournament leader in 3-point field-goal percentage, George Mason tied a season-low with two 3-pointers. The Patriots did not make their first 3-pointer until Tony Skinn connected with 6:07 remaining in the second half. ... George Mason also recorded a season-low six assists, only the fourth time all season the Patriots were held under 10 assists. ... The Gators are now 22-1 this season when they outrebound their opponent. ... Florida also advanced to the national championship game the last time the tournament was played in Indianapolis. The Gators defeated North Carolina 71-59 in the semifinals and lost to Michigan State 89-76 in the 2000 championship game. ... Florida is 19-0 against non-SEC teams this season.

BACK AGAIN: UCLA is making its 16th Final Four appearance, which ties North Carolina for the all-time lead. Florida is making its third Final Four appearance. The Gators' three Final Fours have come with six-year gaps in between - 1994, 2000 and 2006.

UCLA's 12-game winning streak is the longest in the country. UCLA's last loss was at USC on Feb. 19, 71-68. ... LSU has lost all eight games it has played against UCLA. LSU also has lost all four NCAA semifinal games in school history - last night to UCLA, to Indiana in 1953 and 1981, and to Louisville in 1986.

LSU shot 30 percent from the field in the first half and only 32 percent for the game. ... Star forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis was 5-of-17 from the field, and fellow forward Tyrus Thomas was limited to 17 minutes because of foul trouble.

PEYTON'S PLACE: Florida's Lee Humphrey was thrilled to meet longtime idol Peyton Manning earlier this week.

Humphrey then went out and put on a show in the RCA Dome in front of Manning, hitting 3-pointers with the frequency that the star quarterback throws touchdown passes.

But the Florida guard was quick to defend Manning when asked if he had any pointers for the Colts' QB, who is criticized only for his postseason failures.

"He's performed well in some big games in his time, too," Humphrey said. "I don't know if he can take any tips from me. We play two different games."

FAMILY AFFAIR: Sidney Green spent the 2000 Final Four watching Florida with son Taurean.

It was then, Green said, his son decided he would play for the Gators.

Yesterday, the father-and-son tandem was together again for a Final Four game in Indianapolis, only this time Sidney Green had a front-row seat and his son was starting for coach Billy Donovan. And they'll be right back there tomorrow night after Saturday's 73-58 victory.

"It's a dream come true from a dad's standpoint," the elder Green said. "Every dad wants this for their son."

Playing in the Final Four was an opportunity Sidney Green never had at UNLV. The closest he came was 1983 when the Rebels lost 69-67 in double overtime to eventual national champion North Carolina State in the second round.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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