The Florida Gators have defeated the University of California at Los Angeles, 73-57, to win the school's first national title in men's college basketball.
UCLA had been touted as perhaps the strongest defensive team in the national championship tournament. But against Florida in the final, late Monday, UCLA could not find a way to stop the Gators explosive offense.
Joakim Noah led Florida with a team high 16 points and nine rebounds. The two meters, 13 centimeters tall giant easily earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player honor, with a finals record of six blocked shots and a tournament record of 30 total.
"This is the best I have ever felt in my life. You work so hard for these moments. And, they are so worth it," he said. "I am just so proud of my teammates and my coach and my family being here. Not only does it feel good, it smells good, it tastes good. I cannot even describe it."
Florida attacked early and kept the game lopsided for 40 minutes. Guard Lee Humphrey added 15 points, while center Al Horford contributed 14 and forward Corey Brewer had 11 points. Jordan Farmer of UCLA had a game-high 18 points.
Gators Coach Billy Donovan said he stressed the same fundamentals to his team as he has all season.
"I told them before the game that this game was going to be coming down to everything that we talk about. It was going to come down to unselfishness, teamwork, extra passes, high assists total and then being able to defend and rebound," said Donovan. "And, they did a great job."
Although UCLA could not add to its record 11 national championships, Coach Ben Howland praised his players and began looking toward next season.
"We had a great year," he said. "We came up a national championship game short. My message to the team is that our goal is to get back here again next year and win it."
Known as an American-style football power, Florida is hoping this championship will elevate its basketball program to a similar stature for many years to come.