Quick on the perimeter and relentless on the boards, Lanita Bartley, Jennifer George and the rest of the Florida Gators were a step ahead of Ohio State from the very start.
George had 16 points and six rebounds and Bartley added 15 points to lead ninth-seeded Florida to a 70-65 win over eighth-seeded Ohio State in the Des Moines Regional on Sunday. The Gators scored the game's first nine points and held on in front of a crowd packed with fans of the in-state Buckeyes.
Tayler Hill scored 23 points for Ohio State, including two late baskets to pull the Buckeyes (25-7) within two. Florida (20-12) patiently worked the ball inside to George, who went up strong to her left and scored with 45 seconds to play. Emilee Harmon missed at the other end for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State star Samantha Prahalis went scoreless in the second half and finished with nine points.
The Gators forced turnovers early and finished with 20 offensive rebounds, winning despite shooting only 35 percent from the field. They will face the winner of top-seed Baylor and UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night.
Ohio State was playing in its 10th consecutive NCAA tournament, but this was the Buckeyes' worst seed in that span. They made no secret of their displeasure with the draw but did little to show they deserved any better.
Seconds after the opening tip, Hill turned the ball over against a Florida trap, leading to an easy layup for Jaterra Bonds. The Gators led 7-0 before the Buckeyes even got a shot off, and it was 12-2 following a 3-pointer by Jordan Jones.
The Gators led by as many as 13 despite the efforts of Hill and Prahalis. Hill scored 12 points before halftime and Prahalis added nine, but Florida was able to limit their impact.
At one point, Bartley turned her back to the rest of the play while shadowing Prahalis on the perimeter, denying the Ohio State star the ball. Prahalis became the second Division I player to reach 2,000 points and 900 assists for her career, joining Courtney Vandersloot of Gonzaga.
Florida led 39-31 at the half and had an answer every time the Buckeyes began to assert themselves. Ohio State scored the first two baskets of the second half, but the Gators regrouped and went ahead 44-35 on a 3-pointer by Bartley.
With the score 44-40, Bartley stole the ball from Amber Stokes after the Ohio State guard had come up with a defensive rebound. Bartley's layup made it a six-point game.
After a mini-run by the Buckeyes made it 52-48, Ndidi Madu's 3-pointer started a 7-1 Florida run that pushed the lead to double digits.
The Gators were making their first appearance in the tournament since 2009 but had three senior starters plus George, a 6-foot junior.