Another Ohio State game came down to the final shot on Wednesday, but this time it was the Buckeyes that fell victim to the game-winner.
After taking a 30-26 lead to halftime and extending the advantage to as many as 10 points in the second half, foul trouble helped doom Ohio State late, as 23rd-ranked Florida hit 16 free throws in the final 20 minutes before a pull-up 3-pointer from Gator guard Tyree Appleby sealed the Buckeyes’ fate at the buzzer.
The 71-68 loss is Ohio State’s second defeat within the past week, although the Buckeyes entered the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship game riding high off of a game-winning 3-pointer of their own to beat No. 21 Seton Hall in Florida on Monday.
Florida didn’t hold a lead during the second half of Wednesday’s contest until the 2:15 mark, but a pair of free throws from E.J. Liddell put Ohio State back on top 67-66 with 1:56 to play. After a subsequent Zed Key free throw a minute later, Florida scored the final five points of the game, including a dunk to tie things up and the final shot of the game from Appleby, which followed a miss from Liddell at the other end.
Liddell led the way with 23 points for the Buckeyes, and no other Ohio State player had more than Kyle Young, who had 11. Young fouled out with 9:03 remaining in the game, and was one of three Buckeyes whistled for at least four fouls in the contest.
The Buckeyes got off to a hot start to the game, jumping up 11-4 on a 5-for-8 start in the first five minutes, and a jumper from Liddell gave Ohio State a 13-6 advantage at the 14:32 mark. But that was the last Buckeye field goal for nearly six-and-a-half minutes of game time through the middle of the half as Ohio State went ice cold from the floor and got into the foul bonus all too early.
Ohio State then had a stretch of four turnovers in a span of 2:15 that helped spur on a 9-0 Florida run. Four different Gators contributed points to the scoring run, which saw Florida both take the lead back and extend it to a 25-17 edge with 5:17 to play in the opening half.
But the Buckeyes countered back, going on a 13-2 run – including the first points of the season from Cedric Russell on a 3-pointer to retake the lead – to go back ahead by six points with 31 seconds to play. A dunk by Florida forward C.J. Felder closed out the half with the Gators trailing the Buckeyes 30-26.
The Gators shot just 31 percent from the floor, but the Buckeyes kept them in it with 10 first half turnovers. Liddell had a game-high 13 points in the opening period, but no other Buckeye had more than five in the half. Both teams combined to shoot 3-for-20 from downtown.
Three quick Gator turnovers early in the second half helped the Buckeyes to a 6-0 run in the opening four minutes of the final period, and Ohio State equaled its largest lead of the game to that point with a 40-33 edge at the 16-minute mark. Three minutes later, back-to-back buckets from Buckeye forward Zed Key – his first two shots of the night – put Ohio State up 10 points for the first double-digit lead of the game for either team.
Foul trouble and turnovers persisted for the Buckeyes in the second half, and after Young fouled out with 9:03 to play the Buckeye bench was called for a technical foul, allowing Florida to cut the lead to just two points, at 51-49.
The Gators were still down two with the clock ticking under six minutes, but a 3-pointer from Liddell and subsequent layup from Malaki Branham put Ohio State back ahead by seven with 4:55 to go. Back came Florida in the next couple minutes though, as the Gators tied the game up 65-all with less than three minutes to play in Fort Myers.
The buzzer-beater ended the night for Ohio State, which finished with 18 turnovers while allowing Florida to go to the free throw line 33 times on the night.
What's next: Ohio State returns to Columbus to take on fifth-ranked Duke at the Schottenstein Center Tuesday for a 9:30 p.m. matchup during Mike Krzyzewski's final season as head coach of the Blue Devils.
- Fifth-year forward Justice Sueing (abdomen), second-year guard Euegene brown (concussion protocol) and sixth-year forward Seth Towns (back) all missed the game for the Buckeyes with lingering injuries.
- Gator forward Colin Castleton played two seasons at Michigan before transferring to Florida last season. Castleton logged just two points combined in three career appearances against the Buckeyes entering Wednesday. Castleton finished with 11 points and 13 boards on Wednesday.
- Florida guard Myreon Jones was a three-year teammate of Ohio State’s Jamari Wheeler at Penn State prior to this season. Jones had seven points on 2-for-7 shooting for Florida on Wednesday.
- Ohio State last played Florida in 2016, when it lost to the Gators in the second round of the NIT.
- Both Ohio State and Florida were defeated by 15-seeded Oral Roberts in the first and second rounds of last year’s NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes and Gators would have played in the second round had Ohio State not lost in the opening game.