Just like on a certain day nine years ago in the desert, a team broke to a surprising early 7-0 lead in a matchup between Florida and Ohio State. Unlike in that game, the Gators' fine play from that point maintained a lead, rather than seizing it.
And just like in that game, Florida won.
The Gators got 16 points and 12 rebounds from Dorian Finney-Smith, 15 points and five assists from Kasey Hill, and 14 points from Kevarrius Hayes in a 74-66 win over the Buckeyes to advance to the third round of the 2016 Postseason NIT.
Florida led 12-2 and 16-4 after an initial 9-0 punch, and wouldn't relinquish that lead at any point — in fact, when Ohio State made its best run, a 9-0 surge right before halftime, the Gators responded after intermission with a 6-0 salvo that turned into a 14-2 run. Florida would lead by as much as 16 in the second half, and from that first 6-0 run on, the Buckeyes never got within five, despite A.J. Harris cranking one YouTube-ready dunk on Hayes and setting up another for Daniel Giddens.
And twice, when Ohio State cut the lead to seven points in the final five minutes, Florida answered with welcome threes, from Hill and then Finney-Smith, that allowed for breathing quite a bit easier.
The Gators still have another road game to go, at either Monmouth or George Washington, before a potential NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden, but Florida has disposed of a three-happy North Florida team seemingly built to shoot it down and a talented Ohio State outfit that had beaten Kentucky this season. And the Gators are playing as well as they have all year, making up for their flaws by accentuating their strengths.
It's cold comfort for a team left out in the cold, away from the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. These Gator Boys, though, can still get hot.