Last night, the #5 team in the country dismantled the #10 team in the country, making them look foolish in the process. As the commentators mentioned a couple times last night, it is a rare occurrence for two top-ten, non-conference teams to meet in the regular season, so there is a lot to learn from last night's game about both teams.
In my game preview, I wrote that rebounding would be the key to the game. And in the first half, it was. Florida had a significant edge on the glass, and pulled down offensive rebound after offensive rebound. They also had a lead at the half.
But after the break, the Buckeyes kept the Gators from getting as many boards, and were able to pull away. Florida still held a 26-17 overall rebounding advantage, plus an 8-7 edge on offensive rebounds, but much of that edge came in the first 20 minutes.
Rebounding was important, and the Buckeyes second-half improvement in that area played a part in the victory, but in my mind there was a factor that was even more important: Coaching.
Billy Donovan went to the full-court press after the Buckeyes took the lead in order to try and swing the momentum back to Florida. When executed properly, the full-court press creates quick turnovers and easy baskets for the defense. To counter this, That Matta inserted Aaron Craft at point guard.
This move was genius, and worked to perfection.
William Buford once again started at the point, and played a pretty good game, but Craft abused Florida's press. He got by the first defender with ease, leading to five-on-four breaks for the Buckeyes time and time again. These often resulted in Diebler open threes (he went four for seven) or dunks for Jared Sullinger (he went 13 for 17, and I don't remember many shots that came from outside the paint).
There were several possessions where Florida double-teamed Craft just to force Ohio State to inbound to somebody else. The pass went to either David Lighty or Diebler, who either brought the ball up themselves or were able to quickly get the ball back to a streaking Aaron Craft.
In short, the full-court press worked exactly the opposite of how Donovan and Florida intended it to. I feel that Donovan stuck with it way, way, WAY too long, because it put the Gators in insurmountable hole. Granted, the Buckeyes were starting to pull away, and something had to be done, but when he saw that the press was not going to work, he needed to call a time out and try something else.
Against last year's Buckeyes, this probably would have been more successful, because Evan Turner was turnover prone. Do you see what a true point guard can do?
But enough gushing over Aaron Craft. David Lighty and Jared Sullinger were both monsters in this game. I think it is safe to say most people expected big things from Sully this year. Maybe not such big things, especially this early in the season, but he was the number two high school recruit last season.
I was much more impressed with David Lighty. He powered up through defenders' arms multiples times, drawing fouls, and several times converting the bucket as well.
Lighty has been known as a solid player and good defender since his arrival on campus in 2006. Last season, he improved his offensive game quite a bit. But Tuesday's performance was not typical David Lighty. He might not have the prototypical height of a small forward (at least an NBA small forward) at 6'5", but he has the speed of a shooting guard and strength of a power forward.
He has never been a great three-point shooter, so it is nice to see him go inside, and to be so aggressive while going inside.
I heard and read some pundits today, like this one, say that Florida really is not as good as everyone thought before the season, and that is why they were blown out at home. I disagree. Florida looked very good through the first half, and kept it close for the first ten minutes or so of the second half.
Now, I don't think the Gators are going to win the championship this year, but let's be serious for a second here, Gottlieb. This is a Florida team that made the NCAA Tournament last year and returns ALL FIVE starters. They have tall, athletic big men and guards who are capable of shooting lights out.
Save for Patric Young (who stuffed Sully), they don't have lots of depth, and their starting guards are undersized. But the way they played for the first 30 minutes on Tuesday, Florida's starters look like they can hang with any team in the country.
Maybe Florida isn't bad at all, and Ohio State is just that good?
Obviously, I am a little biased, but from my perspective, I saw a very good Florida team get beat by 18 on their home court. Ohio State is the real deal this year, and the Big Ten is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.
This article originally posted on Inside The Shoe