Hoops Preview: Buckeyes Facing No. 23 Gators For Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship

The Buckeyes (4-1) wrap up their stay in the Sunshine State with a title game tilt against the No. 23 Florida Gators (4-0) in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Championship Game Wednesday night. Ohio State made it this far via their 79-76 semifinal win Monday night against No. 21 Seton Hall. The Gators got here with an 80-60 win over California. Florida’s closest win this season was a 71-55 victory over Florida State 10 days ago.

Opening Tip

Who: Ohio State vs. No. 23 Florida
What: Men’s Basketball
Where: Fort Myers, FL — Suncoast Credit Union Arena
When: Wednesday, 8:30 (FS1)
Why: Because the basketball team should get to face a rival this week as well.
Line: Florida -2, O/U 137.5

The Buckeyes

Buckeye Game Notes

  • Florida and Ohio State have met 13 times previously with the Buckeyes holding a slight 8-5 edge in the series. The most recent meeting was in the second round of the Postseason NIT on March 20, 2016. Four Gators finished in double-figures as they advanced with a 74-66 victory. Marc Loving had 20 points to lead the way for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes and Gators also met in the NCAA Championship game in 2007, another Florida victory. Greg Oden, current OSU graduate assistant, had 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in the game. The Gators won both meetings in the 2006-07 season but the Buckeyes won the return game early in the 2007-08 season and then both ends of a home-and-home in 2010 and 2011 before losing in the NIT in 2016.
  • E.J. Liddell has simply been brilliant in the early part of the season. He is averaging 22.4 ppg, has three games of 25 or more points, including a 28-point effort vs. Seton Hall on Monday. He is shooting over 54 percent from the floor and is also averaging 3.6 blocks per game. Liddell is shooting 38.1% from three-point territory and also averaging 2.4 assists per game.
  • Meechie Johnson Jr. had made just one shot against Seton Hall until the last possession when he hit the biggest shot of his young career. Three game-winning three-pointer drew a “Big Time Onions” call from legendary announcer Bill Raftery. Johnson is averaging 11.7 points per game over the Buckeyes’ last three contests. He has come off the bench in all three of those games while playing between 24 and 26 minutes in each. He has hit 8-of-18 three-point attempts and is averaging 2.7 assists per game over that stretch.

The Florida Gators

Projected Starters

What You Need To Know

  • The Gators rode a strong late-first half performance to victory against Cal, outscoring the Bears 29-10 over the final 8:10 of the opening frame to earn a spot in the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship game. Florida is looking for its second straight Thanksgiving tournament title, also winning the 2019 Charleston Classic. Florida last won consecutive holiday tournaments in Dec. 1976 (Gator Bowl Tournament) and Dec. 1977 (Vermont Classic)
  • The Florida defense’s 7.3 blocked shots per game rank second in the SEC in the early going, while the team’s 55.3 points allowed, +21.3 scoring margin, .281 3-point fi eld goal defense and 8.8 3-pointers made per game rank third.
  • After playing with no seniors on their roster last season, the Gators have six senior or graduate players on the active roster this season. All-SEC frontcourt man Colin Castleton returns to UF after testing the NBA waters this summer, along with fellow 2020-21 starters Tyree Appleby and Anthony Duruji. Castleton was recognized with preseason All-SEC first-team status by coaches and the media this season, along with a spot on
  • The Gators added a quartet of veteran impact transfers who have a combined 3,882 career points scored at their previous schools. Florida’s 2021 class of incoming transfers rates in the nation’s top two in career points (Arkansas, 4,125 points, 6 players). Guards Brandon McKissic (UMKC) and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (Charleston Southern) both bring conference defensive player of the year and first-team all-conference credentials to Gainesville as graduate transfers. The Gators also added a pair of undergrad transfers in senior guard Myreon Jones (Penn State) and junior forward CJ Felder (Boston College). Jones led the Nittany Lions in scoring last season with 15.3 points per game and averaged 2.4 3-pointers made, while Felder posted 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season. UF also brings in two freshmen guards in ESPN Top 100 prospect Kowacie Reeves (Macon, Ga.) and pureshooting lefty Elijah Kennedy (Virginia Beach, Va.), along with junior college transfer Tuongthach Gatkek.
  • Colin Castleton earned SEC Player of the Week honors in the opening week of the season, powered by his double-double against Florida State. It marked Florida’s fifth double-double with 5+ blocked shots since 1996, the second by Castleton. He and Joakim Noah are the only Gators in that span with a 15/15/5 game. Castleton blocked six shots in each of the first two games, marking the second time he has posted back-to-back games with six or more swats. He’s the first Gator since Dwayne Schintzius to post back-to-back six-block games, with Schintzius blocking seven shots against Florida State and Ohio State on Dec. 12 and 16, 1987.