Florida vs. Ohio State score, takeaways: Tyree Appleby’s alley-oop, buzzer beater clinch dramatic win

By Adam Silverstein
November 24, 2021
Florida vs. Ohio State score, takeaways: Tyree Appleby’s alley-oop, buzzer beater clinch dramatic win

Image Credit: Chris Kim, UAA

One of the greatest finishes in the history of Florida Gators basketball included an alley-oops, buzzer-beating three and tournament championship, and it’s all thanks to a player who struggled over the first 35 minutes of the game. It will be the final 51 seconds, however, that will be remembered as senior guard Tyree Appleby’s sent No. 23 Florida to an incredible 71-68 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers, Florida.

With the victory, the Gators improved to 5-0 on the young season, but more important than their new record is their increased confidence after the team came from as many as 10 points down in the second half to beat a tough Buckeyes team that was ranked to start the season. Head coach Mike White, despite being embattled at the start of the season, has this Florida team playing as well as any since the beginning of his tenure.

Appleby was far from the star of Wednesday night’s game, but his late heroics were the difference between a win and Florida’s first loss of the season. Enough beating around the bush. Let’s get to what went down as the Gators improved to 5-0 entering the Thanksgiving holiday. Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … Appleby drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send Florida to victory. As if the triple was not impressive enough, it came just one play after Appleby threw a picturesque alley-oop lob that senior forward Anthony Duruji slammed home to tie the game at 68.

The Gators trailed by as many as 10 with 13 minutes to play, but after cutting their deficit down with an 8-0 run, they used a 10-2 stretch over the game’s final few minutes to lead 66-65 with 2:15 to go. The Buckeyes retook the lead with three straight free throws, the last of which came after redshirt senior G Phlandrous Fleming Jr. was called for a blocking foul with 47 seconds left. The foul was reviewed and upheld despite Fleming’s feet clearly being outside the circle. In a true “ball don’t lie” situation, Ohio State F Zed Key missed his first of two free throws, making it a two-point game. That’s when Appleby hooked up with Duruji for the alley-oop prior to the game-ending trey.

First half focus: Florida was struggling more than midway through the opening period when it suddenly went on a 9-0 run to lead 22-17. Ohio State immediately answered with an 13-2 stretch before UF hit a basket at the buzzer to trail 30-26 at the break. The Gators missed six straight shots down the stretch and entered halftime shooting 31% from the field, 11.1% from downtown and 58.3% at the line in their poorest half of the season.

Exceptional efforts: Appleby was astoundingly bad through most of the night, hitting just one of his first nine shots largely because he drove the lane and took ill-advised layups. However, over the final few minutes, he stopped putting up shots and instead dished the ball, leading to a couple baskets and free throw opportunities for his teammates. In the end, he finished with eight points on 2 of 10 shooting with two assists, but that last basket and dime are all that really matters in the end.

“Tyree is as tough as they come, man. He’s a physically tough kid, mentally tough. Not surprising that he stepped up and hit a huge one for us,” White said on FS1 after the game.

Fleming was stellar throughout, scoring 19 points while making 9 of 10 free throws. Senior F Colin Castleton finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds but made just 3 of 8 attempts from the charity stripe. Junior F CJ Felder stepped up with 10 points and five boards, draining 3 of 4 baskets and 4 of 5 gimmies.

Odds and ends: Florida had 13 steals leading to 22 points off 18 turnovers … the Gators also grabbed 16 offensive rebounds for 16 second-chance points … the defensive and rebounding efforts made up for extremely poor shooting (36.7% FG, 28.6% 3PT) … Florida only led for 3:23 of the 40-minute game

UF improved to 6-8 all-time against OSU, but the Gators are now 4-3 against the Buckeyes in modern play dating back to 2006 … Florida won its first game over a Big Ten opponent since the 2017 NCAA Tournament (3-4 under White) … UF improved to 93-25 when allowing 69 points or fewer under White

What it means: The Gator Boys are hot right now. This was Florida’s closest game of the season, but Ohio State is no slouch. The Gators struggled with one of the Big Ten’s best players in E.J. Liddell but otherwise largely shut down an Ohio State team that is headed toward the NCAA Tournament this postseason. Is this to say that Florida should have national championship aspirations? Well, it’s a bit early for that. But given the rest of the Gators’ nonconference schedule, they do have the opportunity to head into SEC play blemish-free if they can keep up this level of play.

What’s next? Florida will not have long to digest its Thanksgiving meal as it is back on the hardwood Sunday when it hosts Troy at noon ET in a game that will air live nationally on the SEC Network.

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