Seventh-ranked Gators fall at No. 3 Ohio St. 81-74

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 15, 2011
Florida coach Billy Donovan looked at the score sheet and said, ''This is going to be good for us because they're a very good team.'' It's still early, that's for sure. William Buford scored 21 points and three teammates chipped in with big games as No. 3 Ohio State survived the seventh-ranked Gators' quick start to roll to an 81-74 win on Tuesday night. Freshman Bradley Beal had 17 points, Kenny Boynton 15 and Patric Young and Erik Murphy 14 apiece for the Gators (1-1), who have never beaten a top-3 team in a true road game. Down as much as 16 points, they got as close as five with under a minute left before Buford sealed it with two foul shots. They considered it a learning experience. ''I'm really thankful that we had this challenge early in the season so we can work on some things,'' said Young, who also had 12 rebounds. ''Rankings really don't mean anything in basketball as much as they do in football. So it really helps our team to understand what we need to work on and help us move forward.'' Preseason All-American Jared Sullinger added 16 points, Deshaun Thomas scored 15 and Aaron Craft had 13 points and seven assists for the Buckeyes (2-0), who forced 16 turnovers and hit 27 of 34 free throws to lead by double figures for most of the final 20 minutes. The Gators jumped out to an 11-4 lead and the Buckeyes appeared to be back on their heels. By scoring 13 of the last 18 points of the half, they took a 35-32 lead. ''Obviously, we got off to a really good start, which I think you want to do on the road,'' Donovan said. ''The difference was our defense in the first half was really, really good. For a period of time there, shots were not going in for us and we needed to have a better resiliency in terms of understanding that we have to go back and play defense.'' The game matched teams that won their conferences a year ago but were trying to replace three lost starters. Florida limited Sullinger to just eight shots from the field but he was a perfect 8 for 8 at the line. ''From watching film on Sullinger, a lot of guys they lull themselves to sleep and they just stand and give him the opportunity to just duck inside,'' Young said. ''I talked to Joakim Noah earlier and he said, `Pat, you stand up too much on defense. If you stand up like that, any post player in the country will duck you in.' So I focused on staying low and not letting them have anything easy. Ohio State scored the first five points of the half for an eight-point edge and never let the Gators cut into the lead until the final minute. Donovan called Craft the difference in the game for his disruptive play on defense. ''Their guards are just terrific,'' said Beal, a national high school player of the year last season. ''From Aaron Craft on to Buford and all the others, they all contributed.'' Ohio State has won eight of the 12 meetings, but the Gators captured the big one. They beat the Buckeyes 84-75 to clinch their second straight national championship on April 2, 2007. Sullinger said the win didn't mean much. ''As young as we are, we've only played two games. They've only played two games,'' he said. ''We're only going to get better and so are they. It's just a stepping stone.'' --- Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap
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