3 takeaways as Florida stuns Ohio State on a buzzer-beater to win Fort Myers Tip-Off

·5 min read

Florida looked dead in the water in the second half of the Fort Myers Tip-Off final against Ohio State. It trailed by 10 at one point, and though it managed to chip away at that lead, it couldn’t take control.

UF struggled with shooting the entire game, and Ohio State couldn’t miss in the second half. But free throws gave the Gators a chance in the final minutes, and tight defense when it mattered gave the team the ball on the final possession in a game that was tied at 68.

Coach Mike White elected not to call a timeout, a questionable decision that ultimately paid off. Guard Tyree Appleby drove down the court and pulled up for a long three that fell through the net as the buzzer sounded.

Despite only leading for 3:23 of game time, the Gators earned a 71-68 win to preserve their undefeated start to the season and capture the championship in the Fort Myers tournament. Here are the takeaways.

This team can win in spite of poor shooting

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Florida’s offense has been much improved to start the 2021-22 season, mostly due to ball movement and getting open shots. However, hitting those shots has been a bit of a problem, and the Gators had their worst shooting performance of the season on Monday night.

They shot just 37% from the field and a paltry 29% from three. UF trailed by four at halftime and as much as 10 in the second half, and for most teams shooting the way this one was, that would be game over.

But Florida didn’t stop shooting. It attempted 60 shots, and it was very aggressive in driving to the lane. That resulted in a lot of free-throw attempts (33, to be exact). It only made 23 of those, but those points eventually proved to be the difference.

The Gators certainly need to be more efficient shooting the ball in future outings, but they proved they can win in spite of very poor shooting. And to make the win even more impressive, they had to contend with Ohio State shooting the lights out. More on that next.

You have to play 40 full minutes against this defense

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I’ve been watching college basketball for a while now. In all that time, I’m not sure I can recall a game where a team won despite shooting below 40% and leading for less than four minutes while the other team shot above 50%.

But that’s exactly what happened in Fort Myers on Monday night. The Buckeyes couldn’t miss, shooting 53% from the field for the game. That mark was even better in the second half, as the team shot 58.3%.

Forward E.J. Lindell was fantastic, scoring 23 points with five rebounds. He was the only Ohio State player in double figures, and the Buckeyes only got off 24 shots in the second half. But he also had five turnovers, which proved to be a problem for OSU. They had 18 total in this one, and that led to 22 points. With 45 of Florida’s 71 points coming on free throws and turnovers, it’s clear that you can’t take anything for granted against this defense.

The Buckeyes offense was almost unstoppable the whole game. Then it didn’t make a shot in the final 3:12. That was the only window the Gators needed, and that’s a function of its elite defense.

Two transfers are starting to break out

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Three Florida players scored in double figures in this game, and only one of them was a starter. Colin Castleton had one of his weaker games of the season on offense, but he finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds. The two other players to break 10 points came off the bench, and they’re both newcomers from the transfer portal.

Phlandrous Fleming Jr. had his best game of the season, leading the team with 19 points on 5 of 11 shooting. He was also 9 of 10 from the free-throw line, and he’s about as good of a sixth man as this team could ask for. He’s a dominant defensive player, which we already knew. He had four steals in this game, but his offense is also starting to come along. That makes him an incredibly dangerous player, and he’s going to contend for more minutes moving forward.

Meanwhile, C.J. Felder also had his best game in a Florida uniform. The Boston College transfer has had a bit of a slow start to his UF career, and he didn’t see many minutes in the first few games. He was solid in an increased role against California, and that set up for a big game against Ohio State.

He scored 10 points, his first time this season in double figures, and he paired that with five rebounds. His +/- of 11 was the highest of the team, and he played a season-high 19 minutes.

Both Fleming and Felder were expected to be impact defensive players, but if they can continue to contribute on both sides of the court, this team’s depth is going to be scary come SEC play.

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