Tyree Appleby made a game-winning 30-footer at the buzzer as the 23rd-ranked Florida Gators rallied to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 71-68, in the championship game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Wednesday night in Fort Myers, Fla.
Appleby had missed eight of his nine shots prior to that heave.
Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, who scored 23 points and swatted five shots – both game highs – missed a short bank shot with eight seconds left. Florida’s Myreon Jones grabbed the rebound and pushed ahead to Appleby.
Florida (5-0) was led in scoring by Phlandrous Fleming Jr., who had 19 points off the bench. Colin Castleton added 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Gators, who already have three wins over Power Five teams, beating Cal and 20th-ranked Florida State earlier.
Ohio State (4-2) also got 11 points from Kyle Young, who fouled out. Ohio State lost despite shooting 53.2 percent from the floor and holding Florida to 36.7 percent.
Liddell led all first-half scorers with 13 points as his Buckeyes went into the break with a 30-26 lead.
Ohio State shot 47.8 percent from the floor in the first half but just 2-for-11 on 3-pointers (18.2 percent). Florida struggled even more, shooting 31 percent from the floor, including just 1-for-9 from distance (11.1 percent).
The Buckeyes stretched their lead to 38-33 with 16:44 left in the second half as Jamari Wheeler came up with a steal and – at 6-foot-1 – a driving layup over Florida’s 6-11 Castleton.
With 13:06 left, Ohio State pushed to its biggest lead of the game, 47-37, as Jimmy Sotos dove for a loose ball, pushing it forward to teammate Zed Key, who hit an open dunk.
But Young fouled out with 9:03 left in the second half, which led to a technical foul on the Ohio State bench. Florida made four free throws during that possession, closing its deficit to 51-49.
Castleton’s free throw with 2:15 left gave Florida its first lead of the second half at 66-65.
An alley-oop dunk by Florida’s Anthony Duruji with 36 seconds left tied the score at 68-68, setting up Appleby’s heroics.