Florida wins NCAA championship

The number three-seeded Florida Gators made history by winning the school’s first NCAA National Championship with an easy victory over the second-seeded UCLA Bruins 73-57 in Indianapolis Monday night. Led by a dominating 16-point, eight-rebound, six-block effort (the blocks were an NCAA championship game record) from sophomore center Joakim Noah, the Gators roughed up the undersized Bruins all night, limiting them to 36 percent shooting.

After scoring the first hoop of the game, UCLA lost the lead for good with 16:49 to play in the first half after a Corey Brewer three off an assist from Noah, who showed surprising versatility for a big man. The Gators led 36-25 at the half and took a 20-point lead at 49-29 after forward Chris Richard’s dunk. UCLA would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

With the game still in question late, it was game MVP Noah who stuffed Bruins center Ryan Hollins to preserve a 12-point Florida lead. Noah grabbed the carom and motioned for his teammates to calm down and clear out. Noah capped his night with a huge, one-handed dunk with 1:09 left to play, the exclamation mark on an impressive all-around game.

The Gators defense stifled a UCLA team that has shown all season long that a little physical defense will shut their already anemic offense down. The credit must go to Noah, who was a force in the paint on both ends of the floor, affecting shots he didn’t block and forcing his way to the bucket on offense.

The impressive seven-footer, the son of former French Open champ Yannick Noah, had plenty of help as three other starters scored in double digits, including Final Four hero Lee Humphrey. Humphrey had 15 points including 4/8 shooting from three. Forward Al Horford had 14 points and seven boards and Brewer added 11.

UCLA was led by Jordan Farmar, who was impressive in the first half, ended up with 18 points and four assists on 8/21 shooting including just 1/8 from beyond the three-point arc. Center Ryan Hollins and guard Arron Afflalo each had 10 points. Hollins added 10 rebounds.

With the win, Gators head coach Billy Donovan proved what many thought to be impossible, that basketball is a sustainable and winnable sport at Florida, a school that is just a decade removed from a national championship in football under Steve Spurrier.

The win makes the 40-year-old Donovan the second youngest coach to win a national championship. Coaching legend Bobby Knight was just 35 when he won his first national title with Indiana. In his 12th year at Florida, Donovan guided his Gators to a 33-6 record, none more important – or historic – than the last.