ESPN.com sim Final Four: Heels top Gators for crown

Originally Published: February 2, 2007
ESPN.com

Now that we've decided which teams should get to the Final Four, we figured you'd want to know who won it, so we took the liberty of simulating the games. See what it looked like in EA SPORTS NCAA March Madness 07:

Semifinal No. 1: Florida 69, UCLA 61

The Gators got the better of the Bruins once again in this rematch of last year's championship game.

Florida vs UCLA
Arron Afflalo helped keep the Bruins in the game, but Florida again had too much for UCLA.
Florida punched its ticket to its second consecutive title game thanks to the strong play of junior Al Horford, who had 21 points and 10 boards while chipping in three blocks. Horford and Lee Humphrey (14 points and eight assists) led the offensive effort for the Gators, but the big difference in this game was defense. While UCLA entered the game with a reputation as the better defensive squad, Florida harassed the Bruins into turning the ball over 20 times in the game, and the UCLA's inability to take care of the ball hindered the team's ability to pull even with the Gators after falling behind early.

In fact, Florida took a 17-7 lead just eight minutes into the game, and never trailed after that. The Gators led 32-26 at the half and extended the lead to 11 in the first few minutes of the second half. The Bruins made a nice run midway through the half to cut the margin to 47-44, but that would be as close as they would get. Darren Collison ended the game with 19 points and seven assists for UCLA, while teammate Josh Shipp chipped in 16 points, but overall, the Bruins shot poorly for the game, finishing below 40 percent from the field, and the Gators outrebounded the Bruins by 10.


Semifinal No. 2: North Carolina 60, Wisconsin 56

When the Tar Heels took a 21-9 lead seven minutes into the game, it looked as if it might be a blowout -- but the Badgers crawled back after trailing by 12 at the half and tied it up late, resulting in an exciting finish that ultimately sent UNC to the title game. With the score tied 53-53 and just under a minute left on the clock, North Carolina's Wayne Ellington knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Heels a lead they would never relinquish, and Carolina hit all four of its free throws in the final 25 seconds to put the game away.
Wisconsin vs UNC
Alando Tucker was strong, but the Badgers couldn't finish the rally against UNC.

Tyler Hansbrough paced the Heels with 29 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, scoring 16 in the first half as UNC built a solid lead while Wisconsin had trouble getting the ball into the basket. With six minutes remaining in the first half, the Badgers were only shooting 22 percent from the floor, but they picked up the offensive pace and closed the gap at the half, and then went on a 16-5 run to tie the game with eight minutes remaining. From there, the lead went back and forth and neither team could build more than a four-point lead, but Ellington's late 3 proved to be the knockout punch in this game.

Michael Flowers led Wisconsin with 21 points and seven assists while Brian Butch topped the team with seven boards.


National championship: North Carolina 72, Florida 67

This exciting meeting between the last two teams to win the national title ended with North Carolina grabbing its second crown in the last three years, topping the defending champs by five. Al Horford and Tyler Hansbrough staged an epic battle down low. Horford bullied his way to 28 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, but Hansbrough matched him with 26 points and 11 boards to lead North Carolina's effort.
Florida vs UNC
Florida's frontcourt had more hype, but UNC freshman Brandan Wright made his own statement.

Defense was at a premium early on as both teams shot over 50 percent in the first half. Horford had 10 points in the first half and Joakim Noah added eight points to help push the Gators to a 37-34 halftime advantage. Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington paced the UNC attack, scoring 13 and 11 first-half points, respectively. The Tar Heels were a bit better on the boards over the first 20 minutes, outrebounding the Gators by four, but also had two more turnovers than Florida in the half.

The game remained tight in the second half, with Florida opening up a 45-38 lead just four minutes into the half, but UNC pulled back to within two at the midway point of the half as each team tightened up defensively. Horford was a force down low for Florida but Hansbrough seemed to match him bucket for bucket, and as the clock trickled down, the Tar Heels went on a 10-4 run -- fueled by 3-pointers from Ellington and Reyshawn Terry -- that gave them a 61-57 lead with six minutes remaining.

From there, the Heels managed to keep their slight advantage and, down the stretch, the Gators had to foul to try and stay in the game. Two Florida players eventually fouled out and Carolina hit seven of its eight free throws in the final two minutes to put the game away and win the 2007 national championship.

Ellington finished with 23 points and five assists for UNC, while Florida got 19 points from Lee Humphrey and eight assists from Taurean Green.

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