A slow start, foul trouble and a nationally-ranked opponent weren’t enough to stop the No. 3 Ohio State men’s basketball team from picking up its second win of the season, as the Buckeyes overcame a slew of obstacles to pick up an 81-74 win against No. 7 Florida at the Schottenstein Center Tuesday night.
“That was about as high-powered of a basketball game as you’re going to see at this time of the year,” OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game. “For our program, we beat a great basketball team tonight.”
The Buckeyes were hindered by a sluggish start, as Florida center Erik Murphy connected on his first three 3-point shot attempts to give the Gators a 14-6 lead.
OSU responded with a 7-0 run, but didn’t manage to grab a lead over the Gators until senior guard William Buford’s jumper gave the Buckeyes a 31-29 advantage at the 2:48 mark of the first half.
After not attempting a field goal in the first five minutes of the game, OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger scored 10 first half points — two of which came from a fade-away baseline jumper as the shot clock expired with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.
OSU took a 35-32 advantage into intermission, but not before two personal fouls on sophomore point guard Aaron Craft forced Matta to take out the player who Florida coach Billy Donovan called the key to the game for the remainder of the first half.
“He physically beat up our guards. And I’m not saying our guards got fouled,” Donovan said. “Totally within the context of the rules of the game, he physically manhandled our guards.”
Craft returned to play the second half, finishing with 13 points, seven assists and two steals.
A 9-3 run helped the Buckeyes gain some breathing room in the second half before a third personal foul sent Sullinger to the bench.
With their leading scorer out of the game, the Buckeyes extended their lead to as many as 16 points, and were helped by a 3-3 shooting performance from junior forward Evan Ravenel.
“That’s what he does in practice, that’s the way he plays,” Sullinger said of Ravenel. “He played really well today.”
A late charge by Florida brought the OSU advantage back down to a single-digit lead with a minute remaining in the game, but could never get closer than five points to the Buckeyes, who converted seven of their eight free throw attempts in the final 60 seconds.
Freshman guard Bradley Beal led Florida in scoring with 17 points and Murphy and sophomore center Patric Young each scored 14 points for the Gators.
Buford finished with a game-high 21-points and pulled down six rebounds for a Buckeye team that for the second consecutive game attempted more than 30 free throws, as OSU went 27-34 from the charity stripe on Tuesday.
“We always want to get to the line,” Matta said. “We always want to keep them off of the line as much as we possibly can, but I’m pleased with how we shot them tonight, that’s for sure.”
The Buckeyes return to action on Friday when they’ll host Jackson State at 9 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.