|Joakim Noah (13 points, nine rebounds) was roaring as the Gators advanced to tomorrow's Midwest Regional final. (TRAVIS LINDQUIST/GETTY IMAGES)|
Gators survive Butler's scare
Butler is game -- but Gators survive
ST. LOUIS -- Al Horford and Joakim Noah had small spots of blood speckled across their shirts and shorts -- remnants of Butler's aggressive, physical play.
For Florida's big men, the red dots were a reminder of how tough it can be to try to repeat as national champions.
"We're going to do whatever it takes," Horford said.
They might have to, because if the top-seeded Gators are going to win consecutive NCAA titles, it seems they're going to do it the hard way.
Horford had 16 points, seven rebounds, and a key block in the final minute to help the top-seeded Gators overcome another slow start and hold off undersized Butler, 65-57, last night.
Florida (32-5), trying to become the first team since Duke in 1992 to win consecutive national titles, advanced to the Midwest Regional final tomorrow against Oregon.
The Gators trailed by as many as 9 points and never found their comfort zone against the scrappy Bulldogs (29-7).
But Florida took control in the final two minutes -- thanks mostly to Horford. The 6-foot-10-inch forward converted a 3-point play with 2:34 remaining, then blocked a shot with 16.3 seconds to play.
Noah (13 points, nine rebounds) and Horford -- 3 inches taller than any of their opponents -- made the most of their size advantage. They went a combined 17 of 21 from the line and had five blocks.
Pete Campbell led Butler with 14 points. Mike Green finished with 12, and A.J. Graves had 11 -- all in the second half.
Green and Graves, though, were a combined 1 of 9 on 3-pointers and had four turnovers.