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

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

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

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

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

"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

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."