Men’s Basketball: Ohio State falls at the buzzer to No. 23 Florida 71-68

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Ohio State men’s basketball huddles during the Ohio State-Niagara game Nov. 12. Ohio State won 84-74. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

Ohio State struggled to deal with No. 23 Florida’s suffocating defense, while a last-second 3-pointer from senior guard Tyree Appleby allowed the Gators to escape with the Fort Myers Tip-Off title 71-68.

In what was a defensive slog early on, the Buckeyes (4-2, 0-0 Big Ten) grinded down the Gators (5-1, 0-0 SEC) — holding them to a lowly 31 percent from the field in the first half. Ohio State’s defensive brilliance extended out to the perimeter, where the Gators shot just 11 percent in the opening frame.

Senior forward Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell’s defense helped Ohio State contain senior forward Colin Castleton to 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Castleton’s struggles played a major role in Florida’s offensive struggles, as the Gators finished 22-of-60 from the field and shot 29 percent from three.

While Young and Liddell did all they could to contain Castleton, they were hampered by foul trouble in the second half. Young fouled out with 9:03 remaining.

Second-chance opportunities were huge for the Gators all night, as Colin Castleton helped the Gators corral 16 offensive rebounds, while snagging five for himself, en route to a double-double. Florida shot 13 more shots than the Buckeyes.

Picking up Castleton’s slack was graduate guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr., who finished with 19 points on 5-for-11 from the field.

Free throw opportunities also made it difficult for the Buckeyes to put Florida at bay, as the Gators shot 21 second-half free throws, making 16 of them.

The Buckeyes offense didn’t fare much better, shooting 18 percent from 3-point range and turning the ball over 10 times — which Florida scored nine points off of — in the first half. Extending out to the rest of the night, Ohio State finished 5-of-19 from beyond the arc and gave away possession 18 times.

While Ohio State’s offense struggled, junior forward E.J. Liddell continued his stellar play on that end of the floor. Liddell finished with 23 points on 7-of-11 from the field while adding five rebounds — but he missed a go-ahead opportunity with 8 seconds remaining.

Liddell’s impact wasn’t confined to the offensive side of the ball, as he collected five blocks.

The Buckeyes also struggled to find their outside shot, shooting just 26 percent from 3-point range. Senior forward Justin Ahrens was the only Buckeye to hit multiple threes, finishing the game 2-for-6 from distance.

Prior to fouling out with 9:03 remaining in the game, Young provided an offensive spark for Ohio State — finishing with 11 points on 5-for-7 from the field.

The Buckeyes led by as much as 10 points and held the lead for over 32 minutes of action.

Ohio State returns to the floor when it hosts No. 5 Duke Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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