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Afflalo is pleased with shot at Gators

UCLA guard welcomes chance to play Florida again after last year's loss in the title game.

March 26, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Arron Afflalo would never disrespect an opponent, so it was a difficult question as to which team he preferred to face next after the UCLA Bruins were done celebrating their advancement to Saturday's Final Four.

Afflalo wouldn't know until about 18 hours later that he and the Bruins would get a rematch of the 2006 national championship game in which UCLA lost to Florida, 73-57.

Since that game, UCLA has lost five times, but in no game have the Bruins been as completely dominated offensively and defensively for 40 minutes as they were in Indianapolis a year ago, when they trailed the Gators by 11 points at halftime and never could get much closer.

It was as if Afflalo was rewinding a video of that game, grimacing at the memory of the raucous shimmy dance done by Florida's Corey Brewer and Taurean Green, of the primal celebratory screams and extravagant chest thumping done by Joakim Noah, of the way Al Horford contested every UCLA pass and how Lee Humphrey seemed to make every three-point shot. And Afflalo didn't make a basket for the first 21 minutes and when he did, the game was over.

So while Afflalo was gracious in saying he would enjoy an all-Pacific 10 Conference semifinal if Oregon won, the urge for revenge, for the chance to prove the Gators are not so obviously better than UCLA caused Afflalo to say of Florida, "I would love to play them again."

He will get that chance.

Florida beat Oregon, 85-77, Sunday in the Midwest Regional final and set up the replay.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was unavailable to the local media Sunday even though he did a CBS interview at halftime of the Florida-Oregon game, but he spoke of the Gators in general terms Saturday night.

"Florida, I've said all along, they're the team to beat," Howland said. "The have the best two big guys on the same team (Noah and Horford) in the country. Both are future NBA players. Brewer is terrific. A guy that's underrated is Sidney Green's son; he's one of the best point guards in the country. He really hurt us last year, eight or nine assists, zero turnovers."

That would be Taurean Green, and he had eight assists and one turnover, and in the havoc Florida caused the turnover was easily forgotten.

"We feel like we have unfinished business with Florida," said Darren Collison, who was scoreless in 21 minutes against the Gators last year. "There has been an unfinished feeling in my head all year. I would very much look forward to playing Florida again."

Howland released a statement Sunday evening after Florida had won.

"They are defending national champions with all five starters back," Howland said. "They are better than a year ago and present a great challenge for us. They are unbelievably talented and obviously well coached. They have no weaknesses."


An overlooked statistic from UCLA's 68-55 win over Kansas on Saturday was that the two teams combined for an NCAA tournament-record 32 steals. The previous record of 28 was set four times, most recently by Florida and Weber State in 1999. The Jayhawks had 17 steals, UCLA 15.


Howland may have let the news out early when he made a point of mentioning that Afflalo was a "consensus" first-team All-American and that "there will be another announcement Monday and let me repeat, he'll be a consensus first-team All-American."

The Associated Press is scheduled to release its All-American team today. Afflalo already has been selected to the first team of four national teams and he was the Pac-10 player of the year.


The Final Four in Atlanta


Saturday, 3 p.m. PDT (TV: Channel 2)

* First look: The Hoyas were fourth in the nation on defense, giving up 56.8 points per game. The Buckeyes average 74.2 points per game and the top six players in the rotation average between 15.4 and 6.0 points.

FLORIDA (33-5) VS. UCLA (30-5)

Saturday, 5:45 p.m. PDT (TV: Channel 2)

* First look: The Gators, seeded No. 1 overall, are two wins from becoming the first repeat national champion since Duke in 1992. The last time the Bruins went to a Final Four for a second consecutive year was in 1976.

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