If Tuesday's game was Ohio State's first test then Thad Matta's team is near the top of the class. The Buckeyes trailed by as many as seven points and only had eight rebounds in the first half but came roaring back in the second half to rout the Gators 93-75 in front of a hostile Florida crowd.
Buckeye freshman Jared Sullinger proved that the hype was deserved and went for 26 points and ten rebounds. He is the first freshman to record back to back double-double since Herb Williams accomplished the feat back in 1977. David Lighty matched Sully with 26 points of his own. William Buford had 16 points and Jon Diebler had 14 including four from beyond the arc.
Things did not start off well for Ohio State and despite taking an early five point lead at 14-9 when Sullinger threw down one of his several dunks of the night the Gators had an answer and most of it was behind deep shooting from Kenny Boynton who had 21 points in a losing effort including five threes.
Ohio State had a difficult time getting second looks in the first frame and because of that the Gators had many more looks than Ohio State. Even with Ohio State's struggles the Buckeyes did end up cutting the lead to three at halftime after a mini-run that was started by DeShaun Thomas.
Florida was hoping to rattle the Buckeyes with a full court press but freshman point guard Aaron Craft saw action most of the way and was able to easily break the press. Craft did commit his first couple of turnovers of his collegiate career but his seven points and five assists made up for the trio of giveaways.
The Buckeyes didn't have an answer early for Vernon Macklin who had a couple of inches on every Buckeye defender but he was only able to score two of his 12 points in the second half. Matta put his best defender, David Lighty, on Macklin for a while and was able to deny the big man.
Ohio State started to pour it on late finding Sullinger in the low block and the freshman did not show any signs of weakness down in the paint backing down the defenders for the high percentage shots. And when Sullinger wasn't doing it the Buckeyes were getting it to Lighty who was able to do it inside and outside. Lighty also showed his toughness drawing heavy contact on several occasions during the game.
Billy Donovan's team returned all five starters from last year's team but the Buckeyes had their own experience coming back with four starters and on Tuesday it was Ohio State's youth, mainly Sullinger and Craft, that was able to prevail.
For the history buffs this is the first time that Ohio State has beat a top-10 non-conference team in a true road game for the first time since 1961.
The Buckeyes return home on Saturday to play UNC-Wilmington at 8pm (EST). Ohio State will have two more games at home after that before a trip back to the Sunshine State to take on Florida State in the Big Ten-ACC challenge.