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April 3, 2006

Gators lead at half

INDIANAPOLIS - Florida had its way with UCLA's heralded defense. At the other end of the court, Joakim Noah set a record for blocks in the first half of the NCAA championship game.

Adrian Moss scored nine points to lead a balanced offense, while Noah set a title game record by with five blocks in leading the Gators to a 36-25 halftime lead Monday night.

Florida, seeking the first national title in school history, missed its last four shots of the half but still made 12-of-27 against a UCLA team that used stifling defense to reach the season finale.

UCLA led a couple of times in the opening minutes, but the Gators quickly seized control. Just past the midway point of the half, Lee Humphrey converted a four-point play - a 3-pointer plus a free throw - that gave Florida its first double-digit lead, 25-15.

The Gators pushed the margin as high as 13 points and were comfortably ahead at the break.

Moss, the team's only senior, was an unlikely player to lead the Gators in scoring. He had played sparingly in the tournament and came into the biggest game of the year with just 10 points in his last nine games.

Corey Brewer had seven points, while Noah and Humphrey added six apiece.

UCLA shot less than 30 percent in the first half, hitting only 8-of-27. Jordan Farmar had 12 points, but only two of his teammates even made the scoresheet.

Noah already had eclipsed the record for blocks in a title game, beating the four by Arizona's Loren Woods against Duke in 2001.

The Bruins had allowed just 45 points in each of their two previous tournament wins, including a dominating performance against LSU and Glen Davis in the semifinals.

But the sophomore-dominated Gators are playing their best basketball in a season that already exceeded expectations. They had only one close game in their first five tournament victories, winning those by an average of 16 points.

Florida reached the title game with a semifinal win over George Mason, a mid-major school from suburban Washington, D.C., that made an improbable run to the Final Four.

UCLA was trying to extend its record for most national championships. The Bruins were going for their 12th title - 10 of them won during the John Wooden era.

The 95-year-old former coach was hospitalized before the game in Los Angeles. His condition wasn't considered serious and he planned to watch the game from his hospital bed, surrounded by family members.

Florida was playing in only its second title game. The Gators lost to Michigan State in 2000.



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