Florida pounded upstart underdog George Mason 73-58, while UCLA pummeled LSU 59-45 Saturday in the NCAA men's basketball semifinals at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
On the strength of their convincing victories, the Gators and Bruins, both with records of 32-6, meet just after 9 p.m. Monday for the national championship.
Florida 73, George Mason 58
Live as the longshot. Die by the long shot.
Florida's 3-point shooting brought George Mason's improbable Final Four run to a jarring end Saturday night. The Gators made a dozen shots from outside the 3-point arc on the way to a 73-58 victory over the feel-good Patriots, who simply couldn't handle an immensely talented team that has arrived at the cusp of the school's first national title a year ahead of schedule.
Lee Humphrey led the way by hitting 6-of-12 from 3-point range and scoring 19 points. He was joined in the outside barrage by Corey Brewer and Taureen Green, who hit three treys apiece for a team that went 12-of-25 beyond the stripe. By comparison, George Mason missed its first nine 3s and finished 2-of-11 — both of them coming too late to make any difference.
"I felt good tonight," Humphrey said. "My teammates did a good job of moving the ball around. I got some good looks."
On the inside, the Gators were nearly as dominating. Joakim Noah — his father, former tennis star Yannick Noah, cheering him on from the stands — scored 12 points and Al Horford grabbed 13 rebounds.
Florida finished with a 40-27 edge on the boards, playing keep-away in the final two minutes with three straight offensive rebounds.
It was way too much for George Mason, the charming little commuter school from suburbs of northern Virginia. The 11th-seeded Patriots (27-8) knocked off half of last year's Final Four and the last two national champions on their march to Indy, but they were overwhelmed by a team that hasn't been seriously challenged in the tournament.
"We came into the game feeling good about ourselves and feeling good about our chances," said George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who tried to inspire his team with a pre-game poem. "For some reason, we were never really able to establish our rhythm, either offensively or defensively. And Florida's ability to get so many second shots really hurt us."
Florida built a 10-point lead in the first half and withstood a couple of George Mason runs for a 31-26 lead at halftime. Appropriately enough, Green closed the opening period with a couple of 3s.
Humphrey took over in the first two minutes of the second half. The sharp-shooting guard made three straight from outside the arc, pushing the margin to 40-28. The Gators got their lead as high as 19 points and the Patriots never got any closer than nine the rest of the way.
"George Mason has been playing great," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "But I thought the key to the game was the 3-point line. That was one thing missing from what people were talking about."
Tony Skinn and Jai Lewis scored 13 points apiece for the Patriots, who missed countless layups and easy shots in the lane that might have gotten them in position to pull off another stunner.
UCLA 59, LSU 45
Oh, Baby, can UCLA play defense.
Throw some offense in there on the same night and not even LSU and its gigantic star, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, had a chance. The Bruins shut him down Saturday en route to a 59-45 victory over the Tigers (27-9) that put them one win away from their 12th national title.
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute was UCLA's top performer in this one, finishing with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting, to go with nine rebounds. But he got plenty of help.
Lorenzo Mata dominated the middle, capping Davis at least twice, sending him to the floor a few other times and generally driving him nuts. LSU's 6-foot-9, 310-pound star - arguably the most entertaining character in this tournament - didn't look so big in this one.
He shot 5-for-17, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and was serenaded with chants of "Ba-by, Ba-by" by the UCLA fans after he took a frustration foul on Bruins guard Darren Collison early in the second half, trailing by 23.
Bruins forward Alfred Aboya set the tone early in the first half when he swatted Darrel Mitchell's shot into the stands, then glowered at Mitchell as he fell to the floor. A few minutes later, Mbah A Moute stepped into an LSU passing lane for a steal that led to a bucket for Collison.
On offense, the Bruins were just as good, especially early. They made three of their first four 3-pointers and shot 58 percent in the first half to push their lead to as many as 16, - minutes before the break.
The start of the second half put it out of reach.
Mbah A Moute dunked twice, Ryan Hollins took an alley-oop from Jordan Farmar for another slam, and then Farmar threw one up from 28 feet with the shot clock going off and swished it for a 48-27 lead. He celebrated by taunting the LSU fans as he ran to the other end. Most of the purple-and-gold crowd simply sat there stoically - they knew a mismatch when they saw one.