Ohio State’s season is over.
The third-seeded Buckeyes bowed out in the second round of the NIT with a 74-66 loss to No. 2 Florida on March 20 at Value City Arena.
After a back-and-forth first half that ended with a one-point lead for Florida, the Gators opened the second half on a 14-2 run and never came close to relinquishing that advantage.
"The start of the second half was really brutal from the standpoint of the turnovers led to easy baskets for them and we got ourselves in that hole," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "I thought we did a great job after the first four minutes of the start of the game when I took the timeout. With that said, I think we were down one at halftime and in pretty good shape. I think Trevor had a great look to start and it doesn’t go in and then from there it sort of snowballed for us."
Marc Loving led the way for Ohio State with 20 points, while JaQuan Lyle finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Daniel Giddens finished with 11 points and six boards and Kam Williams added nine points and six rebounds.
Playing without Jae'sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, the latter of whom was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Saturday, the Buckeyes gave up 14-2 runs to start both the first and second halves.
"I think there’s going to be some constant themes just in terms of I told them, ‘I don’t care if we’re playing in the NIT or the NCAA Tournament or the Big Ten or a preseason game. If you get off to that kind of start, it’s hard to play catch up at this level,'" Matta said. "Florida’s guards did a great job of controlling the tempo. They knew when to go and when not to go, and that was very challenging for us. There’s been constant lessons. Today was probably magnified of not having Jae’sean and Keita out there. We played with what we had, but a couple veteran guys out there obviously helps your team."
Ohio State sent the crowd to its feet late in the second half when two free throws from A.J. Harris got the Buckeyes within seven points with 4:34 remaining, but a three-pointer from Kasey Hill on the ensuing Florida possession extended the lead back to double digits and quieted the crowd of 8,185.
The Buckeyes got back within seven on multiple occasions in the final minutes but never drew closer.
Florida jumped out to a 31-21 lead in the first half on the strength of a strong offensive rebounding performance, but Ohio State finished the first half on a 9-0 run to enter halftime with a one-point deficit.
The Buckeyes were sparked during that stretch by a Lyle three-pointer, while Williams added four points and Loving closed out the scoring with a driving layup.
Ohio State couldn’t keep up that level of play in the second half, however, and saw its season come to an end.