COLUMBUS, Ohio — Florida coach Billy Donovan looked at the score sheet and said, "This is going to be good for us because they're a very good team."
It's still early, that's for sure.
William Buford had 21 points and three teammates chipped in with big games as No. 3 Ohio State survived the seventh-ranked Gators' quick start to roll to an 81-74 win Tuesday night.
Freshman Bradley Beal had 17 points, Kenny Boynton 15 and Patric Young and Erik Murphy 14 each for the Gators (1-1), who have never beaten a top-three team in a true road game.
Down as much as 16 points, they got as close as five with less than a minute left before Buford sealed it with two free throws.
The Gators considered it a learning experience.
"I'm really thankful that we had this challenge early in the season so we can work on some things," said Young, who also had 12 rebounds. "Rankings really don't mean anything in basketball as much as they do in football. So it really helps our team to understand what we need to work on and help us move forward."
Preseason All-American Jared Sullinger added 16 points, Deshaun Thomas 15 and Aaron Craft 13 points and seven assists for the Buckeyes (2-0), who forced 16 turnovers and hit 27 of 34 free throws to lead by double figures for most of the final 20 minutes.
The Gators took an 11-4 lead and the Buckeyes appeared to be back on their heels. By scoring 13 of the last 18 of the half, they took a 35-32 lead.
"Obviously, we got off to a really good start, which I think you want to do on the road," Donovan said. "The difference was our defense in the first half was really, really good. For a period of time there, shots were not going in for us and we needed to have a better resiliency in terms of understanding that we have to go back and play defense."
The game matched teams that won their conferences a year ago but were trying to replace three lost starters.
Donovan called Craft the difference in the game for his disruptive play on defense.
"Their guards are just terrific," said Beal, a national high school player of the year last season. "From Aaron Craft on to Buford and all the others, they all contributed."