Florida falls to Ohio State despite fast start

Ohio State's Aaron Craft looks for an open pass as Florida's Bradley Beal defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 11:56 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Florida had a chance to make an early statement on the road against No. 3 Ohio State.

But turnovers and missed free throws doomed the No. 7 Gators in an 81-74 loss to the Buckeyes before 17,787 screaming, red-clad Ohio State fans at Value City Arena.

The Gators (1-1) trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half before making a late run behind guards Brad Beal and Kenny Boynton. Beal cut Ohio State's lead to 74-66 with a 3-pointer. Boynton added back-to-back 3-pointers in the span of five seconds to cut Ohio State's lead to 79-74 with 18 seconds left.

But it was too little, too late for a Florida team that couldn't overcome 16 turnovers and a 13-for-21 night from the free throw line. Beal led Florida with 17 points but had five turnovers in his second career game.

“Turnovers on the road, you certainly can't have that and expect to win,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “It's gonna be good for our guys to watch the tape and learn from this. Our guards turned it over way too much.”

Starting Florida point guard Erving Walker also struggled, going 1-of-6 from the floor with 4 points, 4 assists and 3 turnovers.

“Erv got off to a tough night shooting the ball,” Donovan said. “I think for Erv, when things are not going great, he's such a competitor and he puts too much on his shoulders and it affects his mind-set, his disposition. He's got to have the mind-set that he can be a catalyst for our team doing other things.”

Donovan blamed himself for the team's free throw shooting woes, saying he hasn't worked on it enough with his team in practice. Walker was an uncharacteristic 2-of-5 from the free throw line, and Boynton was 2-of-4.

“I've got to do a better job making time for that in practice,” Donovan said. “Put that one on me.”

Boynton added 15 points for the Gators while forward Erik Murphy scored nine of his 14 points in the first half. Patric Young added his second double-double in as many games, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Young stood up to the physical challenge of Ohio State center Jared Sullinger. The Buckeyes' preseason All-American had 16 points and 6 rebounds.

Young credited his strong defensive performance to a conversation with former Gators center Joakim Noah, who told him he was standing too upright.

“From watching film, a lot of guys hit a lull when they defend him and that's how he can get his points,” Young said. “I focused on staying low, moving my feet.”

Overall, the Gators outrebounded Ohio State 38 to 29, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds.

But the Gators were done in by Ohio State's perimeter threats. Senior William Buford led all scorers with 21 points, while point guard Aaron Craft had 13 points, 7 assists and 3 steals.

“Their guards are just tremendous,” Beal said. “They dominated us.”

Florida got off to a promising start. Beal started the game with a 3-pointer, and Murphy hit his first three 3-point attempts to help Florida build an early 14-6 lead.

But Ohio State chipped away as the half progressed. Murphy picked up his second foul at the 5:04 mark in the first half. Ohio State closed the second half with a 10-3 run in the final 4:12, taking a 35-32 lead at halftime.

The Buckeyes carried the momentum into the second half, scoring five straight points to extend their lead to 40-32. Florida missed its first five shot attempts to start the second half.

Buford continued to hit big shots throughout the second half, allowing the Buckeyes to extend their lead. Buford's 3-pointer with 7:55 left gave Ohio State a 72-56 lead with 7:55 left.

“Our inability to get defensive stops during that stretch really hurt us,” Donovan said.

Overall, the Gators shot 44.6 percent from the floor (25-of-56) and 50 percent (11-of-22) from 3-point range.

Young said Florida needs to learn from this heading into more non-conference tests down the road.

“We have to decide what kind of team we are going to be when shots aren't falling,” Young said.

FREE THROWS: Beal's parents, Bobby and Besta Beal, made the seven-hour drive from St. Louis to attend the game. Beal's younger twin brothers, Byron and Bryon, also sat with the family courtside behind the UF bench.

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