Tue Nov 16 10:04pm EST
Florida and Ohio State entered the O'Connell Center Tuesday evening with top 10 rankings, star-studded rosters and Final Four expectations.
Only one team walked off the court a legitimate national title contender.
In their second meeting since the 2007 national championship game won by Florida, it was Ohio State that earned a convincing victory. The Buckeyes withstood the best the Gators had to offer in a back-and-forth first half and then elevated their game to a far higher level in the second, transforming a three-point halftime deficit into a 93-75 rout.
If Duke still remains a prohibitive early national title favorite, Ohio State solidified its place on the short list of teams capable of challenging the Blue Devils. The Buckeyes shot 63 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three-point range, receiving significant contributions from all four of their marquee players.
Highly touted freshman big man Jared Sullinger looked spectacular, scoring 26 points on 13 of 17 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games. Wing David Lighty also scored 26 on 9 of 11 shooting, torching each of the defenders Florida rotated on him from the perimeter. And William Buford and Jon Diebler were also effective in scoring 16 and 14, respectively.
Maybe the best sign of the early season so far for Ohio State has been the performance of freshman Aaron Craft, the lone true point guard in Thad Matta's notoriously short rotation. Craft came off the bench to put up nine assists and zero turnovers in Ohio State's opener over the weekend and he had a solid seven-point, five-assist, 29-minute outing against Florida.
In national player of the year Evan Turner's breakout season last year, he carried Ohio State into Big Ten title contention and to within an eyelash of the Elite Eight.
With Turner's supporting cast taking on starring roles and Sullinger living up to his hype so far, it's possible the Buckeyes may be better without him.