GAINESVILLE — Although just the second game of the season, Florida coach Billy Donovan intended Tuesday night's matchup against No. 4 Ohio State to be a measuring stick for where his up-and-coming No. 9 Gators stand so far.
For the first 30 minutes, he liked much of what he saw. The final 30 revealed much more about his team and how far it has to go.
Trailing by three at halftime, Ohio State went on a 26-10 run midway through the second half en route to a 93-75 victory over the Gators in front of 12,110 at the O'Connell Center.
Donovan said lack of discipline and poor decisions did in the Gators (1-1), and is what they must improve on, quickly, to be successful.
"It's the double D for us — discipline and decisions," he said. "I think that really hurt us. The shot selection, the discipline to run offense. They were getting the ball anywhere they wanted to go and they were scoring in which any way they wanted to score. And we were doing the same thing. Both teams shot 62 percent from the field. Both teams were not very good defensively in my opinion. The difference was we were pressing the entire game and turned them over eight times. They were not pressing and we turned it over 18 times."
Florida led 41-38 at halftime in a game with 11 lead changes in the first eight minutes of the second half. But trailing 57-56 with 12:28 left, the Buckeyes (2-0) began their dominating run — including 20 points in the paint — that ultimately sealed the win. The Gators had 11 second-half turnovers.
Florida shot 60 percent in the first half and scored 24 points in the paint, and outrebounded the Buckeyes 19-8, leading Ohio State coach Thad Matta to deliver a stern halftime message for his squad.
"Get tougher. You've got to man up and rebound the basketball," Matta said he told his team. "… Really on both teams, in the second half, there weren't a whole lot of misses. We weren't as physical as we needed to be, but their inside punch — (Vernon) Macklin, (Erik) Murphy and (Alex) Tyus — they did a great job."
Macklin, who missed several days of practice with a knee injury that is causing cartilage to run against his bone, had 12 points and five rebounds, and Murphy added eight and four rebounds off the bench. But the Gators were unable to get the same penetration that helped them take the lead in the first half.
"I think it was just us," Macklin said. "…Coach Donovan was talking for a full week about executing our plays so we've just got to be ready to execute our plays and go all the way through and get a shot we want to take."
OSU freshman center Jared Sullinger had 26 points and 10 rebounds, dominating the Gators inside. Teammate David Lighty also scored 26. Kenny Boynton led UF with 21.
Florida shot 63.2 percent from the field in the second half, but the Buckeyes countered with 70.6 percent.
"It's disappointing," Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons said. "National TV, on your home court, you never want to lose like that. In the first half we showed we can play with anybody. If they're a top-five team we've got to continue that because it's a 40-minute game. Beating them in the first half is irrelevant. We've got to continue to get better and continue to execute, continue to play defense throughout the whole game and not just the first half."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]