Ohio State ended the 1st half on a 13-5 run, started the 2nd with another 13-5 spurt and placed four in double figures on the way to an 81-74 victory over the 8th ranked Florida Gators tonight in the Schott.
William Buford paced the Buckeye attack with 21 points on 7/15 from the floor including 5/6 from the stripe to go along with six boards in 40 minutes of action.
Jared Sullinger saw his touches a bit limited but still managed 16 points and six boards as he attempted just eight field goals (4/8) but capitalized at the stripe draining 8/8.
DeShaun Thomas had his usual handful of defensive lapses but played decently at the offensive end tallying 15 points on 4/10 from the field and 6/6 from the line while Aaron Craft was his usual unflappable self tossing in 13 points (4/11 FG) to go along with seven dimes and three steals. Craft locked up Florida's Erving Walker, holding the 14 ppg scorer to four points on 1/6 from the floor with three turnovers. Walker's first and only bucket came with 4:30 left in the game.
The Gators jumped out to an early 14-6 lead thanks to hot shooting from deep as the Buckeye bigs failed to rotate on the perimeter. Forward Erik Murphy splashed his first three triple tries before Ohio State responded with a modest 10-3 run to cut the lead to 17-16.
Sully started the run with a couple free throws while Buford and Sibert added threes sandwiched between a sick hesitation move from Craft in the lane for two.
Undeterred on the road, Florida then altered their plan of launching threes scoring their next six points in the paint before another three and a couple free throws countered by a jumper from the top of the key from Buford and a pair of free throws by both Thomas and Sullinger. The result was a 27-22 Florida lead with 5:54 left in the half.
Right on time, the Buckeyes turned it on outscoring the Gators 13-5 the rest of the way to take a 35-32 lead at the break.
The beauty of the closing spurt was that five different Buckeyes scored. Thomas started it with a triple, Sully hit a pair of free throws and later a clutch 17 foot baseline fadeaway jumper with the shot clock at :01, Buford hit a floater in the lane and Ravenel hit a layup in traffic as the D collapsed on Sullinger.
For the half, Florida shot a ridiculous 6/11 from distance (55%) but offset that effort with a sloppy nine turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot a so-so 46% from the floor but committed just four turnovers and took advantage of Florida fouls by burying 8/10 from the stripe including 6/6 from Sully.
Looking to extend the three point lead earned by the late 1st half run, OSU came out attacking the rim to start the 2nd stanza.
The Gators recorded a free throw at the other end before a slashing Lenzelle Smith hit a layup off a nice feed from Sullinger. Shortly thereafter, Thomas hit from inside off a good look from Smith and after the teams traded empty possessions, Craft found Evan Ravenel for an alley-oop layup completing the 13-5 spurt and giving the Buckeyes a 48-37 lead with roughly 14 minutes to play. After the WB and Sully both earned trips to the line with attacking drives resulting in 3/4 free throws, Thomas flashed a nice spin move and hook shot from the left low block to extending the lead to 40-32 before Buford found Sully for a dunk in transition.
Florida would stay within 9-11 points and cut the lead the 53-44 with an Erik Murphy three but Buford turned on the jets sparking a 9-2 run with a layup, two free throws and a triple pushing the Buckeyes in front 62-46 with 7:55 left in regulation.
Again, Florida would claw back slicing the lead to as little as five points though the outcome was never in doubt despite some ridiculously dumb play from the Buckeyes. Sam Thompson committed a bone headed foul when he shouldn't have even been in the game and Buford launched a three with less than half the shotclock depleted, among other miscues.
Still the Buckeyes hit 6/6 from the line over the final :30 to secure the win in an early season litmus test.
For the game, Ohio State shot 47% from the floor but just 27% from distance (4/15) while the Gators shot 11/22 from beyond the arc. The Buckeyes somewhat offset Florida's edge from deep by outscoring the Gators 27-13 at the stripe. Impressively, the Buckeyes connected on 79% from the line (27/34) though they lost the glass 34-25 including a 10-5 Gator edge on the offensive backboards.
The Buckeyes owned the turnover battle as Florida coughed it up at will with 16 turnovers compared to just seven for Ohio State.
Not surprisingly, Thad shortened the bench considerably against the 8th ranked Gators with only Ravenel and Jordan Sibert seeing significant minutes (14) by Matta's choosing. Shannon Scott did see three minutes of action at the end of the 1st half after Craft picked up his 2nd foul.
The bench players now have four games to show they deserve more minutes before Ohio State welcomes Duke to the Schott on November 29th.
Next up for the Buckeyes, Jackson State comes to Columbus for a Friday night tilt.