If you were caught sleeping just before tip after watching 19 hours of basketball, then there is no doubt that the start tonight’s Ohio State/Florida match-up either put you in a tizzy or woke you right off the edge of your seat.
It was what you expected at the beggining of a game between two top ten teams in the country early in the season. A quick pace on both sides, with a sloppy handle on the basketball, and barely any defense.
Early in the game, that was to the benefit of the Florida Gators, who took an 11-6 lead five minutes in. The floor opened up on the perimeter, and the Buckeye offense struggled against a 2-3 zone targeted at double teaming Jared Sullinger.
That’s when the guards took over and made this a whole different ballgame.
Aaron Craft and William Buford hit back to back threes inside with just a bit more than 11 minutes remaining to reel in the Buckeye offense.
And after forcing 7 early turnovers, momentum changed with the score at 17-16 Gators. Despite gaining momentum, the Gators continued to set the pace in the backcourt and use their slashing guards to open up the perimeter. If you were to watch the game without a scoreboard, you would of thought that Florida was dominating the basketball game.
But Thad Matta’s squad used the charity stripe to their advantage, getting there often to keep it a one possession ballgame. The Gators were in the bonus with more than 5 minutes remaining in the half.
The Buckeyes worked it to a 29-29 tie with 3:00 to play in the first half. That’s when freshman point guard Shannon Scott entered the ballgame with Craft in foul trouble. Thrown right in the fire, the freshman controlled the basketball efficiently with less than two minutes to go — Setting up Jared Sullinger with arguably the biggest game changer of the night. With time expiring on the shot clock with 1:30 to play in the first, Jared Sullinger drained a turnaround jumper near the baseline with blue all around him. That would be the momentun the Buckeyes needed heading into the second half up 35-32.
Coming out of the locker room, the Buckeyes took their biggest lead of the game at 36-32 and ran with it. The Gators struggled with the perimeter shot out of the gate and the Buckeyes took advantage of it, scoring on back to back possesisons and opening up a 8 point lead. Crisp ball movement in and out of the post set up solid scoring drives early, as Jared Sullinger found ways to get others involved with smart post play and dishing of the basketball.
The major adjustment early was heavier solo pressure on guards, including the usually exposing done by Aaron Craft. He looked more comfortable in the second half. The Buckeyes were also able to settle in on offense, by using the post to slash to the hoop or kick it out for the un contested shot.
With 13:48 remaining in the game, the Buckeyes had opened up their first ten point lead of the night after two consecutive buckets by junior Evan Ravenel. He stepped up his game tonight, shooting 3-3 from the field and dropping seven points. Even more importantly, he was comfortable on the defensive side of the ball. He was given the tough task to cover Erik Murphy, who has some of the best range in the country for his position. He wasn’t perfect, but flashed his talent multiple times on that side of the floor.
From their it was all Ohio State, controlling the clock and the basketball with solid guard play and timely shot selection. Overall they were able to force 17 turnovers on the night. The Buckeyes used those as fuel for momentum throughout the the second half.
Except when they had stints of playing really sloppy basketball.
After a 7-0 run got the Gators back in the ballgame with less than six minutes remaining, the Buckeye defense silenced any hopeful comeback from the Gators.
At least so we thought.
Florida gave Ohio State a scare with less than :30 seconds remaining when Kenny Boynton hit back to back threes to close the gap to within five at 79-74. Deshaun Thomas would seal the game with :15 seconds in the game when he dropped two straight free throws, making it a final score of 81-74
William Buford took over scoring — especially in the second half. Whether it be from the turnaround, from deep, or driving to the hoop. He really took over the reigns late with Jared Sullinger on the bench for four plus minutes. He finished with the game with 21 points and 6 rebounds alongside 3 assists. Jared Sullinger scored 16 points and brought down five rebounds. Aaron Craft had 11 points and eight assists on the night. That gives him 19 games already in his young career with 6 or more assists. Deshaun Thomas also played well, doing a good job of selecting shots to take. He scored 14 points on 4-9 shooting, while ripping down six boards and putting back some impressive tip ins.
The Gators were led by Freshman guard Bradley Beal, who had 17 on the night. Erik Murphy added 14 from the power forward position. Patric Young also added 14 at the center position. Kenny Boynton finished strong with 15 points as well.
The Buckeyes shot 27-34 (79%) from the free throw line, 4-15 (26%) from three and put together an overall shooting percentage of 47%.
Up next for the Buckeyes is Jackson State on Friday.