Ohio State and Florida will meet in Round 2 of the 2016 National Invitational Tournament tomorrow at noon. Despite being in different conferences, the Buckeyes and Gators have played each other 12 times since the 1981-82 season, and it’s been a surprisingly competitive series.
The Buckeyes hold an 8-4 edge in the all-time series and have won four of the last six. One of those two losses was a fairly important game that we won’t go into just now. That 8-4 mark includes a perfect 5-0 at home in the series. Series numbers mean little, of course, with different players, coaches, and situations involved over the years. But Ohio State has exhibited a consistent amount of success in its match-ups with Florida, losing consecutive games in the series only once.
The two schools first met in the 1981-82 season at St. John Arena. The Buckeyes were just 5-3 when the 3-1 Gators came to Columbus, en route to a 21-10 record. Norm Sloan’s team wasn’t very good that year, finishing just 2-16 in the SEC and 5-22 overall. Florida became Ohio State’s sixth victim of the year, but gave the Buckeyes a game.
Behind Clark Kellogg’s double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds), the Buckeyes prevailed, 61-58. It was a sloppy affair, with 48 total turnovers — 29 by Florida alone. Troy Taylor chipped in 14 points for Ohio State, while Ronnie Williams led the Gators with 21. The loss was the first of 14 in a row for the Gators. It was the third of nine straight wins for Ohio State, which would tie for second in the Big Ten and lose in the first round of the NCAA tourney to James Madison, 55-48.
The following season, the Buckeyes made the return trip to Gainesville early in the year. The Buckeyes were 1-0 after a 78-58 opening win over Cal State-Chico. Florida had already played three games, going 1-2 to open the 1982-83 campaign, including losses to Louisville and Illinois, sandwiched around a win over Alaska-Anchorage in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Sloan’s team was much improved from the previous year, but Eldon Miller’s Buckeyes hadn’t slipped from the prior season. Miller’s team won 80-74 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center despite another big game from Ronnie Williams (22 points, 8 rebounds). Three Buckeyes fouled out — Keith Wesson, Granville Waiters, and Troy Taylor — but Tony Campbell poured in 28 points to go with his nine boards to lead the way. Ohio State went 20-10, tied for second in the conference, and beat Syracuse 79-74 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, before falling to North Carolina, 64-51. The Gators finished 13-18 overall and 5-13 in the SEC.
The schools met again in Miller’s final season as Ohio State head coach in 1985-86. Both teams were 2-0, with the Gators crushing in-state foes Central Florida and Florida State at home and the Buckeyes getting double-digit wins over Brooklyn (83-57) and No. 19 Maryland (80-73). Current Ohio State Associate Head Coach was on that Maryland team and posted an 8 trillion.
The Buckeyes improved to 3-0 in the all-time series with an 80-73 win at St. John Arena. Dennis Hopson (34 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) led Ohio State, with Brad Sellers adding 27 points and nine boards. Vernon Maxwell (28 points) and Andrew Moten (18 points) led Florida. Miller’s club went 19-14, winning the NIT. Sloan led the Gators to an identical 19-14 record and came up a game shy of facing Ohio State in the NIT final, falling 67-58 to Wyoming in the semifinals, and then losing the consolation game to Louisiana Tech, 67-62.
In 1986-87, the teams actually did meet twice. The 7-1 Gators reeled off seven consecutive wins after a road loss to Florida State in the season opener. The 7-1 Buckeyes opened the year with six straight wins before losing at Dayton. Following an 85-74 win over Jacksonville in the Gator Bowl Classic, Gary Williams’ and Norm Sloan’s teams locked horns for the tournament title.
The Gators finally got their first victory over Ohio State on Dec. 20, 1986, winning 82-72. Maxwell was a force, scoring 33 points and nabbing six rebounds. Seven-foot center Dwayne Schintzius added 19 points and 10 boards. Hopson led the Buckeyes with 34 points but was only 3-10 from the arc. Jerry Francis chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.
Just 10 days later, the two schools met again in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. The Buckeyes got revenge, winning the rematch, 88-84. Hopson poured in 36 points and added eight rebounds, with John Anderson (13), Curtis Wilson (12), and Jay Burson (10) all reaching double figures. Maxwell (23 points) and Moten (17) again led the Gators. Florida went 23-11 (12-6, second in the SEC) and beat North Carolina State and Purdue in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament before losing to Syracuse, 87-81. Williams led the Buckeyes to a 20-13 mark (9-9 in the B1G), falling in the second round of March Madness, 82-79 against No. 4 Georgetown.
|1988-89||New York City||Ohio State||93-68|
The Gators were 5-1 when they hosted Ohio State in the 1987-88 season. Ohio State was 4-0. But by this time Sloan had built a pretty solid program in Gainesville. No. 11 Florida dominated on its home floor, winning 102-69. Ohio State was effectively out of it at halftime, already trailing by 17, 50-33. The Gators’ 51-33 rebounding advantage helped the hosts, as did the perimeter advantage, with Florida hitting 7/10 from deep and the Buckeyes going just 1/5.
Perry Carter finished with a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) off the bench, with Jay Burson scoring 20 and Curtis Wilson adding 18. Maxwell had another big game for Florida, finishing with 25 points. Livingston Chatman added 18 points and 11 boards and Pat Lawrence kicked in 20 points, including six triples.
Sloan’s Gators went 23-12 (11-7, third in the SEC), beating St. John’s in the first round of the NCAA tournament before bowing out to Michigan, 108-85. Ohio State went 20-13 (9-9, sixth in the B1G), losing in the NIT final to UConn, 72-67.
Ohio State didn’t have to wait long to avenge the humiliating defeat of the year before. In 1988-89 the Gators and Buckeyes met in the ECAC Holiday Festival in New York City on Dec. 27. The Buckeyes had opened the season with a four-point loss against No. 5 Oklahoma before reeling off seven wins in the next eight games, losing only to No. 18 South Carolina by six points in that span. Florida struggled in the early part of the season, entering the game with a 4-5 mark.
Jay Burson went off, exploding for 37 points, eight assists, and five rebounds, leading the Buckeyes to a 93-68 destruction of the Gators. Burson was 9/13 from the arc and Ohio State as a team was 11/18 from downtown, while Florida went just 4/6. Four of Ohio State’s starters reached double figures and guard Jamaal Brown came up just a point shy of making it unanimous.
The Buckeyes won the tournament, beating St. John’s 77-72 two days later. Florida righted the ship and finished 21-13 (13-5, first in the SEC), before losing 68-46 to Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Ohio State finished Williams’ last season in Columbus with a 19-15 mark (6-12, eighth in the B1G), reaching the NIT quarterfinals before bowing out 83-80 to St. John’s, which avenged the ECAC Holiday tourney loss.
After the 1988-89 season, it took 18 years for the Buckeyes and Gators to cross paths again. In fact, they did so twice in 2006-07. Ohio State visited the defending national champions in Gainesville on Dec. 23. Florida was 10-2 with losses to Kansas and Florida State. Ohio State was 10-1 with its only loss against North Carolina. The No. 5 Gators beat the No. 3 Buckeyes handily, 86-60. Taurean Green scored 24 points to lead Florida, with Corey Brewer adding 18 and Lee Humphrey chipping in 12. Mike Conley (13) and Jamar Butler (11) were the only Buckeyes in double figures. Greg Oden scored only seven points with six rebounds and four blocks.
The teams met again at the end of the season in the national championship. The Buckeyes trailed but hung around all night. In the end, Florida had too many big guys for Oden to handle singlehandedly. Oden went off for 25 points, 12 boards and four blocks, and got three Gators into foul trouble. But it wasn’t enough. Conley added 20 points and six dimes in the 84-75 OSU loss. Al Horford’s 18 points and 12 boards led a balanced Gator team that saw four players reach double figures. The big difference was poor distance shooting for the Buckeyes, who went just 4/23 from the arc, compared to Florida’s 10/18. Ohio State outscored the Gators in the paint by an incredible 48-22.
Ohio State finished 35-4 (15-1, first in the B1G), won the conference tournament, and had a 22-game winning streak snapped in the final. Florida went 35-5 under Billy Donovan (13-3, first in the SEC) and completed its repeat, beating Ohio State in consecutive games for the first time in the history of the series.
Both teams looked very different in 2007-08 for the rematch in Columbus – with each team losing multiple players to the NBA. The Gators were 11-1 going into their visit to Ohio, while the Buckeyes entered at 7-3 with losses against Texas A&M, North Carolina and Butler. Neither team was ranked. Ohio State easily prevailed, 62-49, led by 17 points and 10 rebounds by Kosta Koufos. Jamar Butler (13) and David Lighty (11) also reached doubles. Marreese Speights led Florida with just 12 points.
The Buckeyes went 24-13 (10-8, fifth in the B1G) and won the NIT. Florida finished 24-12 (8-8, fourth in the SEC), falling to UMass in the NIT semifinals, again narrowly missing a rematch with the Buckeyes in the postseason.
The most recent meetings between the schools came in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Ohio State won in Gainesville in something called the Global Sports Invitational on Nov. 16, 2010, as both teams entered the game at 1-0. The Buckeyes ripped Florida apart, with Lighty and Jared Sullinger each scoring 26 points, William Buford adding 16 points and Jon Diebler chipping in 14. Kenny Boynton scored 21 for Florida but the Gators couldn’t handle Ohio State’s defense, turning the ball over 18 times.
The Buckeyes went on to a 34-3 (16-2, first in the B1G) season, falling by a bucket in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky on Buford’s nightmarish night. Florida ended the season 29-8 (13-3 in the SEC), reaching the Elite Eight before losing to Butler in overtime, 74-71.
The following season, the Gators again visited Value City Arena in the second game for both teams, who were each 1-0. It wasn’t quite as easy, but the Buckeyes again prevailed, 81-74. Buford went for 21 and Sullinger added 16 with six boards. Bradley Beal scored 17 for Florida. Ohio State went 31-8 (13-5, tied for first in the B1G), losing a two-point heartbreaker to Kansas in the Final Four, 64-62. Florida finished 26-11 (10-6, second in the SEC), losing to Louisville in the Elite Eight, 72-68.
The parallels of the two schools are uncanny. Both were mediocre for several of their earliest meetings and both became nationally prominent in the 2000s. Can Ohio State continue its mastery of the series tomorrow?