Three observations following UF’s 71-69 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl Classic:
— For as bad as Florida played defensively down the stretch, the Gators still could have pulled off a win against Clemson with better offensive possessions in crunch time. Florida coach Mike White credited Clemson’s ball screen defense late, but the Gators had a near shot clock violation on a KeVaughn Allen heave with 40 seconds left and settled for too many perimeter shots instead of trying to get the ball inside or drive and get fouled. The Gators scored just five points in the final 7:08, which isn’t going to cut it against SEC opponents.
— One reason why Florida didn’t play as well defensively in the second half was due to playing away from its bench. Florida coach Mike White was able to direct traffic in the first half and the defensive positioning helped the Gators hold Clemson to 33 points in the first 20 minutes. But because Florida is a quiet team on the court, the Gators were unable to help each other with positioning in the second half. That led to more fouling in the second half, which led to Clemson scoring 38 points in the final 20 minutes of the comeback win.
— Florida picked an inopportune time to have its worst free-throw shooting effort of the season. The Gators, who came into the game an SEC best 77 percent from the free-throw line, were 9 of 17 against the Tigers. The main culprits were Jalen Hudson (5-9) and Gorjok Gak (1-4), who both left points out there. Gak played hard with 3 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes but needs to do improve at the line to be counted on in the post. Clemson outscored UF 32-24 in the paint.