Following a missed jumper by Ohio State forward EJ Liddell with eight seconds to play, Florida guard Tyree Appleby pulled up and drained a long three-pointer at the buzzer to give the #23 Gators (5-0) a 71-68 win over the Buckeyes (4-2).
Appleby finished 2-of-10 from the field on the night.
Ohio State shot .532 from the field and held Florida to 22-of-60 (.367) shooting but still came up short thanks to 18 turnovers on the night. Liddell had a game-high five turnovers and point guards Jimmy Sotos and Meechie Johnson each had three turnovers a piece.
Liddell did lead all scorers with 23 points on just 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
The Buckeyes withstood a 9-0 run over a three-minute span in the first half, turning a four-point lead into a five-point deficit, but they ended the final four minutes of the first half on a 13-4 run. During that run, transfer guard Cedric Russell scored his first points as a Buckeye with a three to regain the lead for OSU.
Ohio State continued their good fortune in the second half, building a 47-37 lead in the first seven minutes of action. They attacked the basket and got dunks or layups from Kyle Young, Jamari Wheeler, Meechie Johnson, and Zed Key. Justin Ahrens also added a “layup” of his own with a three-pointer.
With a 51-45 lead at the 10:01 mark, Kyle Young was whistled for his fifth foul. The Ohio State bench was then whistled for a technical foul. When the Buckeyes finally got the ball back, they led by just two points. They built the lead back up to seven points but gave up a 7-0 run over an 81-second span to tie the game once again.
Ohio State led 68-66 with under 40 seconds to play but allowed a game-tying alley oop to Anthony Duruji. The Buckeyes’ ensuing possession featured the missed Liddell jumper that led to the Gators’ game winner.
Florida shot 33 free throws in this game. Ohio State shot 20.
Let’s Get Physical
Florida’s constant defensive presence created issues all game long for the Buckeyes. This was a very physical game that Ohio State was able to handle at times, but even when they grew accustomed to physicality, they were still too careless with the basketball. Florida forced a bunch of turnovers and made life difficult for most of the 94 feet of every possession. It was a great effort by the Gators and the refs rewarded their physicality. The disappointing thing for the Buckeyes is that they have three point guards who play a lot of minutes and yet turnovers were rampant. Jamari Wheeler was turnover-free, but he missed some valuable time in the first half with a pair of fouls.
EJ Liddell has already put his hat in the ring for the Big Ten Player of the Year, but if he keeps his block rate up, he’s also going to be getting some nods for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Liddell came into this game averaging 3.5 blocks per game and added another five in this one. He is not the biggest post player at just 6-foot-7, but he is showing himself to be an effective help defender and also rim protector.
The Hidden Stats
The Buckeyes have given up a lot of offensive rebounds this season. Some of that is because they’ve forced a lot of missed three-pointers, but when it keeps happening, it can’t just be the luck of the bounce. Florida’s 16 offensive rebounds led to 16 second-chance points. The Buckeyes had just seven offensive rebounds and it led to just seven points. Ohio State forced 11 turnovers and scored just 10 points off of those turnovers. The Gators, meanwhile, forced 18 turnovers and scored 22 points off of those mistakes.
The Freshmen Were Freshmen
We are going to watch Meechie Johnson and Malaki Branham grow together all season long and this was one of those games they are going to need to learn from. The confidence of both players doesn’t seem to be an issue, though Branham could probably stand to be more aggressive when it comes to finding his shot on the drive. Neither player is as consistent as they’ll need to become from the perimeter. Branham was 0-for-2 from three and Johnson was 0-for-5. They each had three turnovers as well. This was a rough, tension-filled game, but it didn’t feel like the game was too big for either of them. Neither of them played particularly well — they combined to shoot 2-for-11 from the field, but they were both out there for 22 minutes of action and will be better for it when the Buckeyes host Duke early next week.
The Box Score
[EJ Liddell header photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept. of Athletics.]