Brewer keeps torrid tourney form

Florida's leading scorer over the past two NCAA Tournaments strikes again.

Published April 1, 2007

ATLANTA - By game's end, his work almost seemed forgotten.

By then, Chris Richard had come off the bench to have the game of his life with 16 points. Joakim Noah and Al Horford nearly had twin double doubles. And Lee Humphrey had set a record with his 43rd career 3-pointer in the NCAA Tournament.

Yet, in his unassuming way, it was Corey Brewer who delivered Florida's 76-66 victory against UCLA on Saturday night.

And that, come to think of it, is exactly how Brewer has operated during much of Florida's quest for back-to-back national titles.

The Gators have 11 consecutive NCAA Tournament wins the past two seasons. Their leading scorer during that run? Brewer at 15.4 per game. Their leader in steals? Brewer with a total of 15. Their leader in assists? Taurean Green, but Brewer is No. 2.

On college basketball's most balanced team, Brewer has the most complete game.

"Corey was big tonight," Humphrey said. "He knocked down some 3-pointers when Taurean and I weren't hitting. We needed to have that perimeter scoring."

When it was all done, Brewer had a game-high 19 points and essentially took out UCLA leading scorer Arron Afflalo in the first half, forcing him into foul trouble.

"I knew he was going to do that. Corey gets amped up for games like this when he knows he's guarding one of the better wing players in the country," Green said. "He did a good job of taking Afflalo out of his rhythm and attacking him on offense."

From the beginning, UCLA seemed committed to keeping the game away from Horford and Noah. The first half went by without either attempting a field goal that was not accompanied by a Bruins foul.

And, for nearly eight minutes, the plan succeeded. Horford and Noah couldn't get open shots, and Green and Humphrey couldn't hit outside shots. Florida had missed 6 of 7, all from the perimeter.

Brewer stepped into the void.

Since the Gators couldn't work the ball inside, and couldn't connect from the outside, he began driving to the basket. He put the Gators ahead, and forced Afflalo to the bench with his third foul, when he drove into the lane with 11:26 remaining. A minute later, he scored again on another drive.

Soon, the UCLA defense began loosening up. And the outside shots started falling for Florida.

"That's what we do," Horford said. "You really can't contain all of us."

John Romano can be reached at jromano@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8811.