COLUMBUS, Ohio - The No. 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes proved that they are more than just Jared Sullinger's team on Tuesday evening as William Buford led all scorers with 21 points and six rebounds as the Buckeyes overcame an early eight point deficit to win 81-74 over the No. 7 ranked Florida Gators.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a crowd like that in November," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "From the students to the fans it was a great environment. It was about as high powered a basketball game that you will see this early in the season."
The Buckeyes trailed for most of the first half and took the first lead of the game with just less than three minutes to go on a Buford jumper to take a 31-29 edge. Ohio State would take a three point lead to the locker room after Evan Ravenel hit a jumper late to make it 35-32.
Ohio State finally found its stroke in the second half and opened with a 15-6 run to push the lead up to 12 points. Thomas knocked down ten of his 15 points in the second half of the game and the Buckeyes were able to distribute the shots around during that run.
"This basketball team didn't fold," Sullinger said. "We got off to a rough stat but as the game went on we got closer as a team and finally said 'enough is enough'. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, but we still have a lot to work on."
At the 12:21 mark Sullinger picked up his third foul of the game and had to go to the bench with Ohio State leading by 11. The Buckeyes would actually expand the lead before Sullinger came back at the 7-minute mark. Ravenel gave the Buckeyes good minutes with 14 minutes played and seven points and a big steal on 3-3 shooting.
Florida's early success was by way of the three point shot and Florida went 6-11 in the first half from beyond the arc. Florida would end up going 11-22 on the night but it took a late barrage late to finish at 50-percent (Florida hit four long distance shots in the final 1:09 of the game).
"We were trying to fight to get back in," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "(We) couldn't hit enough shots and make enough stops to win."
The Gators gave a lot of credit to Craft and what he meant for the Buckeyes in the game. He had seven assists and three steals to go along with his stat line and the Gators really didn't have any answer for him.
"He physically beat up our guards and manhandled our guards," Donovan said. "I have a lot of respect and admiration for him. I don't think he gets the respect he deserves around the country."
The Buckeye players and coaches know what Craft is all about and don't disagree with the Gators' head coach about their talented sophomore guard.
"You get what you get from Aaron," Sullinger said. "100-percent effort at all times, he never gets tired."
Tuesday's game is the first time since December of 1960 that the Buckeyes have faced a top-10 ranked non-conference opponent at home (No. 1 Ohio State def. No. 8 Detroit 84-73) and the win also moves Ohio State to a perfect 5-0 all-time against Florida in Columbus.
Ohio State will look to add to its 24-game home winning streak against Jackson State on Friday at 9 pm.