The University of Florida has won the U.S. men's Division One college basketball championship, for the second straight year. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports from Atlanta on Florida's 84-75 victory over Ohio State, before a sellout crowd of 51,000 people at the Georgia Dome.
With all five starting players back from last year's team, Florida showed why it was favored to repeat as champion.
Although Ohio State looked up to the challenge, in the beginning of the game, that was the only point where it would have a lead. Florida went ahead, with about 12 minutes left in the first half, and never trailed again. The biggest lead was 14 points and the closest Ohio State came in the second half was six points.
Nearly every time Ohio State looked like it might get back in the game, a Florida player seemed to hit a three-point field goal.
Ohio State Coach Thad Matta says that was the big difference in the game.
"They just did an incredible job of making three's and that was one of the things we wanted to hone in on and really try to limit and take away their three's [three-point field goals], but they just, a couple of them [Florida's] [were] sort of freakish type of three's that, you know, were just daggers for us," (hurt us badly) he said.
Florida converted 10 of 18 shots from beyond the three-point arc, while Ohio State made only four of 23.
Florida had a balanced offensive attack, with four players scoring in double figures and two others each with eight points. Freshman center Greg Oden of Ohio State led all scorers with 25 points.
With the 84-75 win, Florida becomes the first school since Duke, in 1991-92, to win back-to-back titles.
Florida Coach Billy Donovan says his is a special group of players.
"When you talk about the word 'team' and what team encompasses, in terms of unselfishness and sacrifice, playing together, they have got to down and be considered, in my opinion, one of the best teams to ever play. And, I think, in this day and age, for these guys to accomplish what they have accomplished, to do it without absolutely no expectations on them last year to having all the expectations on them this year, you've got to be pretty competitive," said Donovan.
Until this Florida win over Ohio State, no men's college basketball team has repeated as national champion with the same starting players.
Florida forward Corey Brewer was named the most outstanding player of this Final Four. He hit a number of key three-point shots in both the semifinal win over UCLA and against Ohio State.
Brewer was one of the three Florida juniors who opted to return to school this season, instead of turning professional. He says they had a mission.
"It's all about the team. Like our motto was, 'We set records and we make history.' I guess you could say that, too. Our motto is, 'We set records' and that's what we tried to do," said Brewer.
Florida is now the first division one college ever to win the national (American-style) football and basketball titles the same year. Ironically, both title game victories were over Ohio State.