Mutual respect noticeable at Final Four

Connecticut and Florida arrived at AT&T Stadium for the first time on Thursday morning, filling their media duties and hitting the court for the first time. The Gators are familiar with the court after playing two games in Arlington during the NCAA Tournament last season. This year, the stakes are higher, and both teams understand the challenge the opponent presents.

The Gators didn't have much success from three-point range in their two games at AT&T Stadium last season. Florida shot 24 percent (6-25) from behind the three-point line in a win over Florida Gulf Coast and a loss to Michigan. The players downplayed the challenges of a new background when they spoke earlier this week, and they'll have time to adjust this week.

Every team had 90 minutes to practice on Thursday on the court, giving the Florida players time to get reacquainted. The team will have a practice on Friday that's open to the public and then have a shootaround session on Saturday before the game tips off at 6:09 p.m.

"We had the opportunity last year to play here, so for some of our guys, it is a familiar place," Billy Donovan said. "I think there's enough time to get ready and play in this kind of venue, because it is a little bit different. But everybody here's dealing with the same thing. We have all been given the opportunity to come out there and shoot and see what the building's like."

Connecticut hasn't played in the new arena but did stop inside it during a recent road trip. Their practice on Thursday was the team's first chance to shoot and see what the backdrop looks like in front of a stadium that can fill up with over 100,000 fans.

"This really allows our players to see the ball going in," Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "We always want to see that. Just seeing them get used to and relaxed and shooting in a venue like this is a great opportunity for us."

The shooting will be an important part of Saturday's outcome, especially from teams that are led by guards. The headlines will focus on the point guard matchup of Shabazz Napier and Scottie Wilbekin, two hot-shooting seniors that have carried their teams to this point in the season.

And Napier has Florida's full attention.

"It's his ability to pull up from anywhere and the quickness that he pulls up and with the efficiency that he makes difficult shots," Wilbekin said of Napier. "That's what makes him hard to guard. He also has the ability to get in the lane with his quickness and his first step. The different weapons that he has on offense is what makes it hard for him to be guarded.

"I always like guarding guys that are challenging to guard. "

The same respect rests on the opposite sideline where Ollie gushed about the Gators on Thursday. The Huskies won the first matchup between the teams on December 2 but both sides said on Thursday that it didn't matter much in terms of Saturday's game.

"I have so much respect for Florida and what they did throughout this whole year and being on this streak and the consistency," Ollie said. "That's what I love. hey play one way and one way, that's it. They don't play another way. They play hard, they play together, they are unselfish."

Ollie put the film of the Florida game on for his team weeks ago, trying to remind them of the effort they showed in that game. It served its purpose as the Huskies have won four straight NCAA Tournament games to get to this point.

"I just wanted our guys to see how we were rotating, how we were playing, how we were challenging them and that they can have that same experience again and play that same type of way," Ollie said. "Florida's No. 1. We competed at a high level against them."

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