The defending champion Florida Gators and top-ranked Ohio State University have advanced to the championship game in U.S. men’s (Division One) college basketball. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer has a report from Atlanta, Georgia where the Final Four games were played Saturday night.
Florida was rarely threatened against a UCLA team it beat in last year’s title game, and the Gators secured a 10-point victory in this semifinal, 76-66.
Twice in the second half Florida held an 18-point lead, the last coming with a little over four minutes to go.
Corey Brewer led the winners with 19 points, hitting four out of five three-point field goals and five of six free throws.
It was a tough defeat for coach Ben Howland and his UCLA players.
“We’re very disappointed about losing tonight and being here [in the Final Four] for the second straight year without bringing home a championship,” said Howland. “But I’m also really, really proud of our players and the great year that we’ve had and the character that they’ve displayed.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan said his team had been very focused in preparing for UCLA and it paid off.
“You know it was a game where two teams played hard, getting after it, and I’m just proud of our guys that we’re back in a situation with an opportunity, you know, to play for it all again on Monday night,” said Donovan.
Florida’s opponent will be top-ranked Ohio State, which won its 22nd straight game in the other semifinal, beating Georgetown (University of Washington D.C.), 67-60.
Ohio State was led by its two star freshmen. Guard Mike Conley Jr., the son of 1992 Olympic triple jump gold medalist Mike Conley, played all but one minute and scored 15 points. Big center Greg Oden, who played only three minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, tallied all of his 13 points in the second half.
“It was real tough in the first half just sitting there, because I wanted to contribute. But my teammates, they stepped up. They did a great job,” said Oden.
Georgetown coach John Thompson the third also credited Ohio State’s defense.
“Their defense was very good in many ways,” said Thompson. “We had too many turnovers which didn’t allow us to get shots at the basket, which did not allow us to get into a rhythm. So you have to give them credit for causing that to happen.”
So it will be Ohio State against Florida in the men’s national basketball final. The two universities also met in the American-style football title game in January, and Florida came away with a 41-14 win.