Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The number that had people talking after Ohio State’s season-opening win over North Carolina A&T was 30. That was how many offensive rebounds the Buckeyes had, eight more rebounds than North Carolina A&T had total.
The No. 4-ranked Buckeyes visit the O’Connell Center on Tuesday night to face the ninth-ranked Gators in the first meeting of top 10 teams this season. It’s also a rematch of the 2007 national championship game, won by the Gators.
“Thirty offensive rebounds in a game is impressive regardless of who you are playing against,’’ UF coach Billy Donovan said Monday afternoon. “They possibly have the potential to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country.’’
The Gators opened their season with a 77-60 win over UNC-Wilmington on Friday night, overcoming an early five-point deficit to put away the Seahawks with a balanced effort that saw 10 different Gators score. The Gators know points won’t come as easily against a physical and tough Ohio State team that features true freshman Jared Sullinger, a 6-foot-9, 280-pound forward who was the 2010 Naismith High School Player of the Year.
All Sullinger did in his college debut was score 19 points and grab 14 rebounds.
“He has really good moves. He keeps his composure. He really doesn’t play like a freshman early, from what we’ve seen,’’ said Gators senior forward Alex Tyus. “I know he’s big.’’
Sullinger may be the biggest and most talented member of Ohio State’s frontcourt, but he isn’t a one-man show. Senior Dallas Lauderdale is 6-8 and 255 pounds, and freshman forward Deshaun Thomas is 6-6, 230. Thomas came off the bench in his debut to score a game-high 24 points.
So much of the discussion surrounding the Gators in the preseason focused on their increased depth and toughness with the addition of freshmen such as forward Patric Young and guard Scottie Wilbekin.
The newcomers plus the frontcourt senior trio of Tyus, Chandler Parsons and center Vernon Macklin face a difficult challenge to match Ohio State’s muscle.
“If they are considered one of the toughest teams in America, I think it’s a great challenge,’’ Parsons said. “I would say we are a totally different team this year than the past couple of years. We have a lot of tough guys and a lot of toughness.’’
The Buckeyes opened sophomore guard Kenny Boynton’s eyes when he watched them on film recently.
“I didn’t know they were so good until I saw them on film,’’ Boynton said. “I think we’ll match their physicality. We’re definitely not soft.’’
While the Buckeyes have Florida’s attention, they’ll make the trip to Gainesville knowing they’re in for a much more difficult challenge than what they faced against North Carolina A&T.
Both coaches see the benefits of such a difficult early-season game.
“This will be a great test,’’ Ohio State coach Thad Matta said Monday. “On Nov. 16, you are looking at a Big Ten-type game.”
The schools haven’t played since Ohio State won 62-49 early in the 2007 season. Tyus and Parsons were freshmen then. Ohio State guard David Lighty, a fifth-year senior who played in the NCAA title game in 2007 against Florida, is the Buckeyes’ most-experienced player.
With five starters returning and Donovan still trying to mix the newcomers into the lineup, a game of this magnitude can only speed up the mission.
“This is a great test and a great opportunity for both of us,’’ Donovan said. “You find out a lot more about your team in these situations. Part of me really, really likes the fact it’s this early. Things are going to get exposed that you need to get better at. Sometimes it’s better off finding out those things now than it is later.’’
One way the Gators hope to offset Ohio State’s physical style is to use their full-court press to wear down the Buckeyes. In their season-opening win, the Gators forced UNC-Wilmington into 20 turnovers.
The Gators used a similar approach early last season to upset a Michigan State team that later made it to the Final Four.
“We are going to press as much as we can,’’ Parsons said. “We know we’re not going to blow them out and that they are not going to blow us out. We’re going to have to go out there and compete every possession.’’
Donovan said Macklin has been bothered by a sore knee (tendinitis) recently but that it won’t keep him out of Tuesday’s game. “He’s been in and out of practice here the past couple of days,’’ Donovan said. “Going forward, that is a concern for me, but we’ll just have to wait and see.’’ … Freshman forward Cody Larson was the only newcomer who didn’t play in the season opener. Donovan said there is a possibility of redshirting the 6-9 forward from Sioux Falls, S.D. “I’m not going to throw him into games. I want to keep that option open for him right now, and he’s good with that.’’