In the second round of the NIT tournament, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio with a final score of 74-66 on Sunday afternoon.
The Gators came out of the gate with an early 9-0 start with Dorian Finney-Smith putting up five of those nine points. Florida finally was able to take off with a game and got to an early 12-point lead at 14-2 fewer than five minutes into the first half.
Kasey Hill continued to shine in post-season play, especially after a beautiful reverse layup assisted by Chris Chiozza that put Florida up 22-14. Ohio State answered with a trey to cut down the Gators’ lead to five with 9:02 to go before halftime.
Florida managed to get their lead back up to double-digits after a layup from Kevarrius Hayes and a three-ball from Justin Leon to put the score at 27-17 with just over five minutes until halftime.
The Gators held on to their lead, still holding a ten-point favor with 3:15 left, looking like they were going to be in a good position for the second half. That is until they went 0-4 in the final three minutes and allowed the Buckeyes to go on a 9-0 run to bring the score to 31-30 at the end of the first half.
In the second half the Gators were ready to take back the game – especially Kevarrius Hayes. In the first minute he put up four points with back-to-back baskets to extend Florida’s lead to five.
This set the momentum for the Gators as they followed suit and quickly furthered their lead to 11 less than five minutes in. From there, UF took off to get as high as a 16-point lead over OSU after a layup by Finney-Smith with 10:15 to go.
The Buckeyes worked to try and end the second half as they ended the first, but the Gators were not ready for history to repeat itself. Florida held on to their double-digit lead for the next five minutes until a dunk by OSU’s Daniel Giddens brought them down to a nine-point lead with 5:14 until the final buzzer.
Florida was able to extend their lead to double digits three more times in the final five minutes, but finished the game just shy of doubles at 74-66.
The Gators will play the winner of the Monmouth/George Washington game on Wednesday night on the road.