April 1, 2006

Florida ends George Mason’s fairytale run

By Steve Ginsburg

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Florida used its superior height
to end upstart George Mason's remarkable NCAA Tournament run
with a 73-58 victory Saturday in the national semi-finals.

The Gators broke the game open with a 12-2 streak at the
start of the second half, turning a five-point lead into a
43-28 cushion with 15 minutes left in the game.

Junior guard Lee Humphrey had 10 points during the run,
including three three-pointers, to help seal the Gators'

George Mason never closed within nine the rest of the way.

"Those three threes that (Humphrey) hit were big," said
Florida guard Taurean Green. "Just opened up the game."

Florida (32-6) will try to win its first national title on
Monday when it faces UCLA at the RCA Dome. UCLA whipped
Louisiana State 59-45 in the other semi-final.

Humphrey and sophomore forward Corey Brewer had 19 points
apiece to lead Florida, which had a commanding 40-27 rebounding
edge over George Mason.

Tony Skinn and Jai Lewis each scored 13 to pace George

The loss closed the Patriots' stunning march through the

George Mason (27-8), the first school from outside a major
conference to make the Final Four in a quarter of a century,
gained a national following after beating much larger schools
with basketball-rich traditions.

"I think we've done something tremendous for college
basketball," said Skinn. "For the teams that are out there and
watched us play, we showed them that all you need is
opportunity and a chance."

Florida (32-6), which lost to Michigan State in the 2000
national championship game, took an early 16-6 lead using its
height advantage over the smaller but quicker Patriots.


But George Mason began to collapse on Florida's big men
underneath and got its running game in gear, fighting back to
25-24 with just under four minutes left in the opening half.

The Gators used a 6-2 run the rest of the way to take a
31-26 lead at intermission.

Florida, which has three starters standing at least
6-foot-8 while George Mason's tallest is 6-foot-7, held a 23-17
rebounding edge in opening half, hauling in 11 off the
offensive glass.

When the Patriots collapsed on Florida's big men, they sent
the ball outside for their guards to shoot the jumper. In the
opening half, Florida was six of 15 from beyond the arc, while
George Mason was zero for four.

"For some reason, we were never able to establish our
rhythm either offensively or defensively," said Patriots coach
Jim Larranaga.

For the game, Florida was 12-for-25 from three-point range,
while the Patriots hit just two of 11.

"The big focus for us was the three-point line," said
Florida coach Billy Donovan. "We were able to hold them without
a (made) three-point shot for the first 35 minutes.

"We shot 34 percent in the first half but the fact that we
shot 40 percent from the three-point line in the first half
gave us a five-point lead."

George Mason, a commuter school from Fairfax, Va. that
plays in the Colonial Athletic Conference, had never won an
NCAA Tournament game before beating Michigan State, North
Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut over the last two