Florida started the second half on a 14-2 run to break open a close game and defeat Ohio State 74-66 in a second-round NIT game on Sunday at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The Gators (21-14) started the game on a 9-0 run and came out in the second half just as hot as they increased one-point halftime lead to a 45-32 lead.
JaQuan Lyle stopped the bleeding and finally scored on a layup. But poor defense, turnovers and fouls doomed the Buckeyes (21-14), who lost an NIT game for the first time in coach Thad Matta's career in Columbus.
Florida, which now has won four of its last five games, played without their second-leading scorer John Egbunu (11.5 points per game) after he underwent thumb surgery Thursday.
Dorrian Finney-Smith led the Gators with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Finney-Smith got plenty of help as freshman Kevarrius Hayes, who came into the game averaging 2.1 points per game scored 14 points for the Gators. Kasey Hill added 15 and Justin Leon came off the bench and chipped in with 12 points.
Ohio State was without its second-leading scorer Keita Bates-Diop (11.8), who was out because of an illness.
Marc Loving led Ohio State with 20 points and Lyle added 19 points.
The Gators maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half, although 5-foot-9 A.J. Harris provided some excitement for the Buckeyes.
Harris drove baseline and dunked to cut the lead to 11 at 60-49. Moments later he drove the lane and passed behind the back to Daniel Giddens, who dunked and was fouled to bring the Buckeyes to within seven at 62-53.
But Hill nailed a 3-point jumper to extend the lead to 10 and the Gators sailed from there.
Florida will play the winner of the Monmouth-George Washington game, which will be played Monday.