Originally created 03/12/06

Gators chomp way into final



NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Taurean Green spent most of the night battling a stomach virus after Florida made it to the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals.

Lucky for the Gators, Green recovered in plenty of time to give them a chance to repeat as champions.

Green scored eight of his 18 points on three consecutive possessions late in the second half as No. 16 Florida downed 17th-ranked Louisiana State, 81-65 on Saturday, to advance to the title game for the third year in a row and sixth time overall.

"I was a little bit concerned just because he was throwing up, and it was several times throughout the course of the night," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

LSU led 64-59 when Green essentially sealed the victory within 35 seconds. He hit his second 3 of the game with 4:55 left, LSU forward Glen Davis missed a jumper, and Green hit another 3. He added a driving layup for a 72-59 lead.

"That was huge in the game," LSU junior Darnell Lazare said. "We got in a hurry and panicked a little bit. We should have been more patient because we had enough time."

Green, who received fluids intravenously, said he felt, "like I wasn't even sick last night."

LSU, the regular-season champ, hasn't won a tournament title since 1980 or played in the championship game since 1993. With freshman Tyrus Thomas resting his sprained left ankle for the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers (23-8) had a seven-game winning streak snapped.

Coach John Brady said his Tigers won the most important title in the regular season and the loss shouldn't affect their seeding, which he expects to be a No. 3.

"We accomplished what we needed to here, and everyone knows we played without the freshman of the year for four straight games, and everyone knows he's going to be back next week," Brady said.

Joakim Noah scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Corey Brewer also had 15 points. Chris Richard added 10 rebounds and seven rebounds, and Al Horford had 10 for the Gators.

Florida will play South Carolina today.