Florida Headed Back to the Final 4

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Inside, outside, early, late. It doesn't matter how Florida does it.

At tournament time, nobody's better than the Gators.
Joakim Noah and his buddies are heading back to the Final Four, looking for a second straight national championship that was worth more to them than NBA millions.

Lee Humphrey made seven 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, and Taurean Green added 21 to lead the Gators to an 85-77 victory over third-seeded Oregon in the Midwest Regional final Sunday afternoon. It was their 16th straight postseason victory, a stretch that includes one national championship and two Southeastern Conference titles.

"It's so great because we were under a microscope," said Noah, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. "There was so much hate. But we know that what matters is what's going on here."

Next stop for the top-seeded Gators: Atlanta, where they'll play UCLA in the national semifinals in a rematch of last year's championship Game.

Florida won that one in a rout, 73-57, for its first national championship -- and the first half of what would turn out to be the Gator Slam. When Florida beat Ohio State for the national football title in January, the Gators became the first school to be champs in both sports at the same time.

Now Florida (33-5) would like to win both crowns in the same calendar year. And make a little history as the first team since Duke in 1991-92 to win back-to-back basketball titles -- and the first ever to do it with the same five starters.

Oregon was trying to get to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 1939, the first year of the NCAA tournament. But the Ducks (29-8) were done in by foul trouble the entire game and Tajuan Porter going cold.

Porter, the 5-foot-6 guard who went off for eight 3s and 33 points in Friday night's regional semifinal, didn't make his first field goal until there were 40 seconds left in the game. He finished with 10 points but was just 2-of-12 from the field.

Aaron Brooks led Oregon with 27 points, and Malik Hairston added 18 and five rebounds before fouling out with 3:54 to play.

The Gators have yet to play their best -- or even a consistent -- game in the NCAA tournament. They've had to come from behind in each game, and have yet to get a dominant performance from both their big guys and guards at the same time.

But half a Gator team is better than most wholes. After Horford carried the Gators in the semifinal, it was Humphrey and Green doing the work Sunday.

Brooks made a 3-pointer and followed with a layup to tie the game at 45 with 17:06 to play. But Green made a 3, then scored on a driving layup of his own that brought the Florida bench to its feet and gave the Gators a 50-45 lead with 16:18 to play.

After a timeout, Humphrey hit a 3 to make it 53-47 with 15:35 to play, and Oregon never got closer than four rest of the way.

The Gators being the Gators, though, they had to make it interesting.

Florida didn't make a field goal in the last 8:14 and missed seven free throws in the last two minutes, allowing Oregon to whittle a nine-point deficit down to four.

Porter's second 3 -- his second basket of the game -- made it 81-77 with 17.2 seconds left, but Florida put it away as Green went 3-of-4 from the line and Porter was called for traveling with nine seconds left.

As the final seconds ticked down, the celebration was on.

Noah screamed, "Keep hating!" and "We win, we eat!" as the Florida fans roared with approval. The MVP of last year's Final Four sprinted across the court, grabbed coach Billy Donovan and hefted him in the air, shaking him. After the Gators accepted yet another trophy, they huddled together on the podium and rocked back and forth, whooping and hollering.

Then they climbed the ladders to cut down the nets -- something they've gotten quite good at over the last two seasons. But make no mistake, a regional title isn't why Noah, Horford and Corey Brewer -- all certain to be lottery picks, with Noah the likely No. 1 -- put their NBA millions on hold last spring.

They want another title, and anything less will be a bitter disappointment.


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