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Florida routs Ohio State in prelude to football title game

Dec 24, 2006 - 1:34 AM GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Florida's basketball team gave football coach Urban Meyer a tough act to follow.

Al Horford and Joakim Noah ganged up inside on freshman sensation Greg Oden and Taurean Green scored 24 points to lead fourth-ranked Florida to an 86-60 victory over third-ranked Ohio State.

The schools will meet for the national football championship on January 8 in Glendale, Arizona. In that contest, the unbeaten Buckeyes - with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith - will be favored to beat Meyer's Gators.

The hardwood is another story. Florida coach Billy Donovan has back all five starters from last season's championship team, and the Gators (11-2) schooled the young Buckeyes (10-2) on Saturday before 12,621 - the largest crowd in the O'Connell Center's history - and a national television audience.

Meyer was also at courtside with his family to watch the dismantling of the Buckeyes, who shot just 37 percent (23-of-63) and were outrebounded, 42-25.

"These games are a test and Ohio State was like the exam," Noah said. "For the first semester, we passed it. We get an A. We're going to do it all over again in the second semester."

Florida shot 74 percent (20-of-27) in the second half when it outscored the Buckeyes, 48-31.

Ohio State was eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season but brought in the most talented freshman class in the nation headlined by Oden, who many believe will be the first overall pick in the 2007 draft.

But the 7-foot Oden was surrounded underneath by the 6-11 Noah and the 6-10 Horford and scored just seven points, less than half his average of 15.5 points.

"It had to be hard on Greg," Donovan said. "We were throwing two and even three guys at him and he had to guard different people each time. Our guards also drove to the basket and made him leave the inside guys defensively. So we really made him work."

Oden was also plagued by foul trouble, picking up his third with 16:46 left and Florida holding a 43-40 lead.

While Oden sat for 3:44, the Gators went on a 10-3 run. Corey Brewer hit a jumper and Horford dunked before Ohio State freshman Mike Conley Jr. connected on a 3-pointer.

Without Oden watching the lane, Noah scored on an inside power move, Horford dunked again and Green converted a layup to increase the lead to 53-43 with 13:02 left.

Oden returned at that point, but his presence no longer mattered. Florida continued to pull away and built its biggest lead at 80-53 on a basket by Green, who made 9-of-12 shots, with 3:42 remaining.

"His (Oden's) absence was a factor, but they really did outplay us in all facets," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "They played with a lot more energy and hit the boards more aggressively. They also shot lights out in the second half."

Oden made just 2-of-6 shots, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots. His highlight came when he blocked Brewer from behind on a drive to the basket and then stuffed Noah, who attempted to score on a follow shot, with 18:32 left.

After Oden's back-to-back blocks, Ivan Harris connected on a 3-pointer to tie the game, 38-38, with 17:39 remaining.

However, over the next 10:25, Florida turned the game into a rout, outscoring the Buckeyes, 36-11. Green scored 10 points in the run, including a pair of jumpers from the arc, as the Gators opened a 74-49 lead.

Brewer finished with 18 points and Horford, who was not expected to play due to a sore ankle, collected 11 and 11 rebounds off the bench.

Horford was cleared to play after the morning shootaround and was inserted into the game early by Donovan after Chris Richard started at center.

"I was able to be aggressive, like I always am," Horford said. "I definitely felt more comfortable in the second half."

Noah, who will likely be a top-five pick in the draft if he declares, scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Conley led Ohio State with 13 points, seven assists and four steals and Jamar Butler added 11.

"They played a real good game, but this should be a motivating force for us," Butler said. "They're the national champions and we have a long way to go to get to that level. But we'll get better with each game."

Florida scored 15 straight points to open a 33-20 lead. Brewer slashed his way for three of the baskets and Lee Humphrey capped the spurt with a 3-pointer with 3:36 left in the first half.

Ohio State responded with a 9-3 run as Oden had two dunks, but Green ended the half with a pair of free throws to give the Gators a 38-29 advantage.

The Buckeyes scored the first nine points of the second half, capped by Harris' 3-pointer, to tie the game before the Gators seized control.

    --- --- -----
    OHIO ST (3) 29 31 60
    FLORIDA (4) 38 48 86 FINAL

    Dec 23 5:54 PM

    OHIO ST (3) 29

    Dec 23 4:51 PM
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    RUWTbot Added 61 roots

    Ohio State vs. FloridaDec 23 4:05 PM