Florida's outside shooting vaults Gators into national title game

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Lee Humphrey lingered outside the arc,

determined to keep on shooting.

Swish. Swish. And make it three.

Appropriately enough, the longshot of Final Four was doomed by

the long shot.

Humphrey hit three straight 3-pointers to start the second half

and Florida brought George Mason back to reality Saturday night,

ending the Patriots' stunning run through the NCAA Tournament with

a 73-58 victory.

In all, the Gators made a dozen shots from outside the 3-point

stripe -- tying a national semifinal record. Humphrey had six of

them, leading Florida into Monday night's championship game against UCLA.

"Humpty was a monster tonight," teammate Joakim Noah said.

"When he's hitting shots like that, we're tough to beat."

Too tough for 11th-seeded George Mason (27-8), the charming

mid-major from the suburbs of northern Virginia, which knocked off

the last two national champions and half of last year's Final Four

on its way to Indy. The feel-good Patriots 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.

The youthful Gators (32-6) have probably been the most

impressive team in the tournament, withstanding only one serious

challenge in their five wins. They are winning by an average of 16

points a game in the postseason.

"We're playing our best basketball all year and we're a really

tough team," said Al Horford, one of four sophomores in the

starting lineup. "You can't stop us."

Humphrey, a junior, is largely overshadowed by his younger

teammates. And he struggled in the first half, making only 1 of 5

shots -- all of them from beyond the stripe.

But coach Billy Donovan told the guard to keep on shooting, and

Humphrey responded with the three straight 3s that pushed the

Gators to a 40-28 lead before two minutes were gone in the second


"He's a silent assassin," said another of the sophomores,

Corey Brewer. "He doesn't get a lot of hype. Nobody knows too much

about him, but Lee Humphrey wins basketball games for the Florida


The Gators are heading to the second title game in school

history. They lost to Michigan State in the 2000 final.

Humphrey finished with 19 points and 6-of-12 shooting from

3-point range. He was joined in the outside barrage by Brewer and

Taureen Green, who hit three treys apiece for a team that went


"I felt good tonight," Humphrey said. "My teammates did a

good job of moving the ball around. I got some good looks."

By comparison, George Mason missed its first nine 3s and

finished 2-of-11 -- both of them coming too late to make any

difference. They were much more accurate in their four tournament

wins, making 26-of-62 (42 percent).

On the inside, the Gators were nearly as dominating. Noah -- his

father, former tennis star Yannick Noah, cheering him on from the

stands -- scored 12 points. 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


"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 second half. The Gators pushed 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," 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


The George Mason band played "All I Need Is A Miracle" as the

Patriots warmed up before the game. The players didn't seem too

nervous -- Jordan Carter and Charles Makings joked around with each

other during the layup drills, while several teammates glanced

toward their school's green-and-gold-clad section, as if trying to

see if their family and friends had found their way into the RCA


The underdog Patriots trotted on the court past the Florida

section, which greeted them with Gator chops. But the rest of the

crowd seemed to be pulling for George Mason. A fan wearing an LSU

shirt held up a "Go Mason" sign. The UCLA fans also cheered every

time the Patriots scored.

But Florida wasn't intimidated by the crowd or the knowledge

that nearly everyone outside the Sunshine State was pulling for one

of the most unlikely teams in Final Four history.

"What they've been able to do this year is great for

basketball," Donovan said. "Most teams don't get a chance to

experience what they've been able to experience. In this

tournament, they were able to inspire a lot of people. There was no

resentment on our team for feeling like they got all the attention

or we got slighted."

George Mason's only lead was 2-0. Florida was ahead 16-6 before

the game was 7 minutes old.

The Patriots tried mightily to get back into it. Florida went

cold in the first half, missing six straight shots during a scoring

drought of nearly five minutes.

George Mason went on an 11-2 spurt, closing within one point of

the Southeastern Conference school where football is king but

basketball is on the brink of a title. But the Patriots never

caught up.

Before the final seconds ticked away, Larranaga pulled out his

starters so they could get one final ovation from the crowd.

It was well deserved.

From now on, every mid-major will feel like it has a chance to

compete with the big boys.

"I think we did something tremendous for college basketball and

for teams out there who watched us play," Skinn said. "We showed

them that all you need is opportunity and a chance."