GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – With Jared Sullinger dominating inside and David Lighty breaking guys down outside, No. 4 Ohio State was too much for No. 9 Florida.
Sullinger and Lighty scored 26 points apiece and the Buckeyes beat the Gators 93-75 on Tuesday night in an early season matchup of teams with national championship hopes.
Ohio State used a nearly flawless second half to turn a small deficit into a double-digit lead, sending fans to the exits with about 5 minutes remaining.
William Buford added 16 points for the Buckeyes (2-0), who hit 24 of 34 shots in the second half and broke down Florida’s press with relative ease. Jon Diebler added 14.
The Gators (1-1) shot 61 percent from the field and led by seven points in the first half. But they had no answer for Sullinger in the paint and had even more trouble slowing down Lighty.
Kenny Boynton led Florida with 21 points.
The Buckeyes shots 63 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. Sullinger, a 6-foot-9, 280-pound freshman with soft hands, and Lighty, a senior with a deft shooting touch, did the most damage.
Sullinger was 13 of 17 shooting and added 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards. He abused Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus in the paint, scoring on layups, dunks and short jumpers. His only weakness came at the foul line, where he missed both attempts.
Hack-a-Sully? It might happen down the road.
Florida rotated several defenders on Lighty, but none had any success. Lighty hit 9 of 11 shots and made 6 of 7 from the free throw line. He drove to the basket repeatedly, getting fouled or forcing defenders to leave Sullinger alone under the basket for dunks.
The Gators kept pace early, but were done in by 11 turnovers in the second half.
Erving Walker finished with 15 points for Florida. Chandler Parsons added 13 points, and Macklin chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.
The first half was as entertaining as anyone could expect this early in the season. The Gators led 41-38 at the break thanks to 60 percent shooting, a 19-8 rebounding advantage and a 24-14 edge in the paint. The Buckeyes led by five early, but Macklin and Erik Murphy started getting good looks inside.
Macklin hit a layup and a short jumper, then Murphy came off the bench and took advantage of three offensive rebounds. Macklin put the Gators ahead 39-32 with a hook shot and a left-handed runner in the lane.
The Buckeyes overcame the small deficit with an 8-0 run that crossed over halftime. Sullinger and Diebler hit layups just before the break, then Sullinger added a jumper and a layup to start the second half.
Sullinger was pretty much unstoppable all night. He made nine of his first 12 shots, and had 18 points and and seven rebounds with more than 11 minutes to play.
It was the teams first meeting in nearly three years. Ohio State won 62-49 in December 2007, a rematch of sorts from the 2007 national championship game. The Gators dominated that crucial game, with Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green getting the most of Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook and Lighty.
Noting the Florida Game
Jared Sullinger made his second career start as a true freshman for the Buckeyes He is the first true freshman earn a double-double in his first two games as a Buckeye since Herb Williams in 1977. Sullinger finished the contest vs. Florida with 26 points and 10 rebounds. He had 19 points and 14 rebounds vs. NC A&T. Williams had 34 points and 10 rebounds vs. Cal Hayward then 21 points and 22 rebounds vs. Marshall in his first two games.
Senior Jon Diebler made four 3-pointers pushing his Ohio State career record to 267.
With four 3-pointers, Diebler extends his streak to 18 games with at least one 3-pointer made.