Scores

Final

(3) Ohio State 60

(10-2, 1-2 away)

(5) Florida 86

(11-2, 10-1 home)

    4:00 PM ET, December 23, 2006

    Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida

    1 2 T
    #3OSU 29 3160
    #5FLA 38 4886

    Top Performers

    Ohio State: M. Conley 13 Pts, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 4 Stl

    Florida: T. Green 24 Pts, 2 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

    Horford's return sparks Gators in surprising rout

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida center Al Horford looked "awful" in his first practice in nearly two weeks. He was tentative and clearly trying to protect his left ankle.

    Nonetheless, coach Billy Donovan decided to throw him into Saturday's game against No. 3 Ohio State and see if he would perform better given the atmosphere and the marquee matchup.

    The move worked even better than Donovan could have imagined.

    Horford had 11 points and 11 rebounds in his return from a sprained ankle, keyed a crucial second-half run and helped the Gators (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 AP) dismantle the Buckeyes 86-60.

    He proved his ankle is just fine, and so are the defending national champions.

    "It was huge," teammate Joakim Noah said of Horford's return. "I know he's still not 100 percent. But just having his presence, his smarts, everything that he brings to the team, his rebounding, his physicality and everything. He's a hell of a player."

    Horford, cleared to play after a morning shootaround, dominated his matchup with talented 7-foot freshman Greg Oden, who was in foul trouble much of the game and finished with seven points and six rebounds.

    Donovan had said Horford would not play against the Buckeyes, but the 6-10 junior practiced Friday without any setbacks and was inserted into the game early.

    He was much more effective late, though.

    Ohio State (10-2) used a 9-0 run to start the second half and erase a 38-29 deficit. Then Horford took over.

    "The first half I was a little nervous just because of my ankle," Horford said. "But then the second half I got more comfortable and decided to go out there and play and be aggressive like I always am."

    He had two jumpers, two dunks, a layup, a free throw and several rebounds over the next few minutes to help the Gators (11-2) put the game away.

    Taurean Green and Corey Brewer also came up big in the 33-9 run that turned a tie game into a rout and had the largest crowd in the O'Connell Center's history (12,621) in a frenzy.

    Green had 10 points, including two 3-pointers, in the spurt. He finished with 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

    Brewer, who had a 102-degree temperature in Florida's first loss against Kansas and sat out the second loss at Florida State, had 18 points.

    Florida shot 74 percent (20-of-27) in the second half and looked very much like the team that swept through the NCAA tournament last season and claimed its first national championship.

    "The games are a test," Noah said. "And Ohio State was like the exam for the first semester. We passed it. We got an A. We're pretty happy right now. We're going to show mommy and daddy the grade and then we're going to do it all over again the second semester."

    The Buckeyes shot 36.5 percent for the game -- well below their season average -- and were outrebounded 42-25.

    "I am in shock," Ohio State guard Ron Lewis said. "I never thought this team could be beaten like that. It is something we just have to learn from."

    Mike Conley Jr. led Ohio State with 13 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. He didn't get much from the rest of the "Thad Five," coach Thad Matta's highly touted recruiting class.

    Oden, David Lighty, Daequan Cook and Othello Hunter were a combined 5-of-20 from the field.

    "They played a good game and we couldn't beat them," guard Jamar Butler said. "This game will be a motivating factor for us. When you play the national champions and you play like that, it is not fun. Hopefully, it will motivate us to stay in the game in the future."

    Oden was 2-of-6, hampered by Horford, Noah and Chris Richard, who went right after the player many consider to be the best center in college basketball. They used one post player to bring him out of the paint and then tried to get another one the ball down low -- hoping to minimize Oden's shot-blocking ability.

    Oden finished with four blocks and a steal.

    He missed his first shot and picked up a foul trying to get the rebound.

    "The one thing we talked about doing against him was to keep running him, keep going at him, keep being aggressive, keep challenging, keep attacking him and don't let him just sit back there and block shots and don't try to play away from him but to play at him," Donovan said. "It was probably hard on Greg. We're throwing three guys at him and he has to guard three different people."

    The Gators had struggled to match opponents' intensity and enthusiasm -- maybe a natural byproduct of trying to repeat. They had little trouble getting up for this one.

    Tickets were sold out long ago. At least 20 NBA scouts were on hand to see what was touted as a game featuring three of the best big men in the country. It also was considered a possible precursor for the Bowl Championship Series national title game Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz. between the schools.

    Gators football coach Urban Meyer can only hope for the same success. He was courtside with his family and spent the second half chatting with former Ohio State football star Cris Carter.

    With a few minutes to play, the crowd chanted "over-rated." They followed that with chants of "just like football."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    OSU
    FLA
    Points 60 86
    FG Made-Attempted 23-63 (.365) 35-59 (.593)
    3P Made-Attempted 7-23 (.304) 9-18 (.500)
    FT Made-Attempted 7-11 (.636) 7-10 (.700)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 12 (0/0) 13 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 29

    2006-07 Season

    DATEGAMELINKS
    » Dec 23, 2006 @FLA 86, OSU 60Recap