Gators crumble late in OB Classic loss to Clemson

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Clemson's Donte Grantham drives on Florida's Gorjok Gak during the first half Saturday at the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic tournament in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

SUNRISE — Florida coach Mike White summed up UF’s inexplicable 71-69 loss to Clemson at the Orange Bowl Classic succinctly.

“We are not the most mentally tough team,” White said. “We’ve seen it time and time again. We need to grow in that area.”

The Gators were seemingly in control of the game, up 66-57 on a driving layup by Jalen Hudson with 5:40 left. But bad shots and porous defense doomed Florida down the stretch, as Clemson closed the game with a 14-3 run to steal the win.

The biggest gaffe came with under a minute remaining. Florida took a 68-67 lead on a heads-up steal and layup along the baseline by Chris Chiozza with 1:23 left. Then, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes combined for a blocked shot, with Stone getting the rebound on a missed drive by Clemson guard Marquise Reed.

But with 40 seconds left, Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen launched a long 3-point attempt late in the shot clock. Reed grabbed the rebound, then threw a pass downcourt to wide open Clemson center Elijah Thomas, who made the go-ahead dunk to put Clemson back ahead 69-68.

“They did a great job and forced a tough (shot),” White said. “Everybody has floor balance rules. We know what ours are. The guy whose job it was in the locker room raised his hand and said my bad. I’d rather not say who that is.”

Said Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson: “We were kind of scrambling for the ball, we were kind of desperate and went to get the ball. We didn’t sprint back like we were all supposed to.”

Florida still had a chance to regain the lead, but Allen missed an open 3-point attempt from the right wing with 7.4 seconds left to conclude a 5-for-13 night from the floor. Reed made two free throws. Hudson was fouled on purpose with 2.4 seconds left and Clemson up 71-68. Hudson made the first free throw, missed the second but Hayes was unable to secure the rebound ahead of Clemson forward David Skara, who was fouled. Skara missed both free throws but Egor Koulechov wasn’t able to even get a halfcourt heave off in time as time expired.

The No. 22 Gators (6-4) have now lost four of five and will likely tumble out of the rankings this week. The loss, before 9,152 at the BB&T Center, also snapped a seven-game win streak in Orange Bowl Classic games. UF’s last Orange Bowl Classic defeat was a 56-53 decision to Richmond on Dec. 19, 2009.

“We some made mistakes down the stretch,” Hudson said. “They capitalized on every mistake we made. We had some fouls that they converted on. We had 10 fouls early in the second half so every foul that we had they were able to convert on. They were getting shots for it. They guarded us without fouling.”

Clemson got into the bonus at the 14:18 mark of the second half when Chiozza fouled guard Mike DeVoe. As a result, Clemson went to the free throw line 22 times in the second half and 30 times for the game. Clemson shot 66.7 percent from the foul like (20-30), compared to UF’s season-low 52.9 percent (9-17).

“We couldn’t get stops throughout the whole second half,” White said. “They drove on us at will, lived at the foul line. That’s kind of who we’ve been.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said winning the free-throw battle was a priority for the Tigers (9-1).

“We did a lot of things to try to post the ball and get fouled,” Brownell said. “We are a team that doesn’t foul that much. We practice not fouling. I call fouls in practice and the guys do not like it. Every year, we are one of the teams that foul the least in our league.”

Mike White discusses Florida’s loss to Clemson in Sunrise, FL

Hudson led three UF scorers in double-figures with 23 points. Chiozza added 14 points and 3 assists, while Allen had 12 points and 3 assists. Reed had 22 points and 6 assists for Clemson to earn game MVP honors.

Hudson scored UF’s first 12 points, a stretch that included a pair of 3-pointers, a driving dunk and a bank shot, giving UF an early 12-9 lead. Allen then followed with a hot stretch, hitting a pair of 3-pointers while scoring eight straight points to give Florida a 20-16 lead.

The Gators maintained a slim lead for the rest of the half. After a Gabe DeVoe’s 3-pointer cut UF’s lead to 34-33, the Gators closed the half with a 6-0 run. A putback dunk by sophomore center Gorjok Gak put Florida up 37-33. Then, after Clemson was whistled for an offensive foul, Koulechov hit a step-away 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer, putting the Gators up 40-33 at halftime.

A 3-pointer from Hudson gave Florida its biggest lead, 47-35, with 17:24 left. But Florida was unable to put Clemson away. The Gators shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the second half and went 3 of 11 from 3-point range in the second half.

“We’re still kind of making the same mistakes we’ve made since early November,” Hudson said. “We’ve just got to get better. I thought we fought. I thought we played hard. I thought we took really good shots. I thought we played together. We’ve just got to stop making the same mistakes game after game.”

FREE THROWS: The Gators fell to 0-2 this season in games decided by 5 points or less and 0-3 against ACC teams. … No. 19 Florida State dropped the opening Orange Bowl Classic game to Oklahoma State 71-70, marking the first time since 1999 that both host teams lost in the event.

CLEMSON 71, No. 22 FLORIDA 69
CLEMSON (9-1)

Grantham 4-8 3-4 11, Thomas 2-8 0-0 4, Mitchell 3-7 4-7 10, Reed 6-8 9-11 22, DeVoe 6-12 4-6 19, Simms 0-0 0-0 0, Skara 0-0 0-2 0, Donnal 1-2 0-0 3, Trapp 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-46 20-30 71.

FLORIDA (6-4)

Stone 1-1 0-0 3, Allen 5-13 0-0 12, Koulechov 2-8 2-2 8, Hudson 7-18 5-9 23, Chiozza 6-12 1-2 14, Hayes 1-2 0-0 2, Gak 1-3 1-4 3, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0, Ballard 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 25-62 9-17 69.

Halftime_Florida 40-33. 3-Point Goals_Clemson 5-12 (DeVoe 3-7, Reed 1-2, Donnal 1-2, Mitchell 0-1), Florida 10-24 (Hudson 4-8, Koulechov 2-5, Allen 2-8, Stone 1-1, Chiozza 1-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Clemson 31 (Thomas 10), Florida 34 (Koulechov 9). Assists_Clemson 11 (Reed 6), Florida 8 (Allen, Chiozza 3). Total Fouls_Clemson 17, Florida 21.

42 COMMENTS

  1. Worst end of the game coaching I have ever seen. This team has become a train wreck. 3 Gor is completely out of control and costing the team dearly. The UF offense is completely out of control putting up worse shots than even prior years.

    • PS. The bigger problem was not defensive lapses but rather shot selection. The Gators seem compelled to get off quick shots, wait till the last second to get off a shot, or hopelessly drive deep into trouble. Very frustrating.

  2. The Gators are totally inept. Hayes contributes nothing offensively. Neither does the other center. Chris needs to look for his shot more often. Sit Allen and start the freshman. The Israely should shoot and establish fit him early. Weak defensive and rebounding team. Coach substitutions suspect with no continuity offensively meshing with what he puts on the court.

  3. Horrible, pathetic…..choose your adjective. And to think I looked forward to basketball season to help me forget the joke that was the 2017 Gator football season. It looks like the 2017 Basketball season is also going to be a joke. Looking forward to the upcoming baseball and softball season, I think. (Running out of Gator sports to look forward to).

  4. When the Gator team is heavily defended they seem to collapse. That’s what Duke did at the second half of game and Clemson did it in the second half plus they slowed the Gator game down by pressing in the second half. Great Clemson coaching. Their coach does whine too !!

  5. When is White going to start looking in the mirror and put the blame on him and his staff. He is not a very good coach and cannot recruit. I have lost count on the number of games Florida has lost in the last five minutes of a game due to White’s poor performance as a coach. Hayes and Gak are pitiful. Again, another year where there is no one on this team that is NBA caliber. This is White’s third year and he has shown he can not get top recruits to come to Florida. The only thing fans can look forward to is a return of a healthy Egbunu who, hopefully, has improved his game.

    • Don’t count on Egbunu to bring much of an offensive presence to the Gators, he’s usually good for an occasional dunk, but not much else offensively, he’s relied upon for defense and rebounding, Florida actually got better last season when he went down with his knee injury, not saying we don’t need him, but he’ll bring little to the table offensively.

    • Correct. White should shoulder some blame. The centers did not improve their game during the off season. They are garbage offensively. Chris has too much on his shoulders. Meaning; Ballard should get more minutes. Actually, a lot more than the mentality weak Allen. 3 Gor is NO Gor and is undescipline on the court. Intensity is a major issue contributing to indecision offensively and defensively.

  6. This mess is the result of poor coaching/recruiting by Mike White. Why did we add 3gor to this team? We already had Allen, Hudson, and Ballard I believe. They all are high volume shooters. 3gor has the worst shot selection of all of them. He’s not helping us. The coach needs to realize his four guard and an undersized big is not working against the better teams. He needs to at least try something else. Very disappointing season so far.

  7. Wow, seems like you guys are throwing in the towel right now and I’m sure some of you were saying this might be the best Gator basketball team ever earlier in the season . Clemson was in the bonus+ with 13 minutes to go and Florida got to the bonus with about four seconds to go, can’t beat eight people on the other side of the court with the best team. Definitely bad officiating and still had a chance at the end. They will get it straightened out when it really counts.

  8. Playing a four guard line up with an undersized big will not consistently beat the better teams. The shot selection by these guys is atrocious. Can someone tell me why we picked up 3gor? He has never met a shot he didn’t like. Mike White only has himself to blame for this mess. I hope they can somehow get it together for conference play.

  9. White badly out coached in 4 out of last 5 games. Allen looks like he caught Brett Nelson disease an upper class player whose outside shot disappears from what it was their first two years in school. Egor looks completely lost against upper tier competition. Clemson isolated him ongoing as they burned him repeatedly. Very well could be an NIT team if they do not pick it up.

  10. With so many people blaming the officials I thought I had accidentally gone to a seminole website. If the Gators had shot more than 53% it would have been a different story. The refs only called 4 more fouls on Florida than on Clemson.

  11. One specific decision, on White, mentioned as a “pet peeve” by the TV analyst, was that with a full minute left, we went into the “hold to the last second” mode, basically giving K. Allen 7 seconds to find a shot, WITH A ONE POINT LEAD. It rarely results in a basket at the end of a half, and didn’t here. It was analogous to the three-man rush prevent defense in football the way we closed the game. Played not to lose, so we lost.
    After football then this, I’m going to take a break from watching UF for awhile. BP is too high.

  12. Been watching every gator basketball game since Donovan started and this has to be the most frustrating team to follow. They play a horrible brand of street ball where players just jack up wild three’s most of the game it is almost unwatchable!

    Egor and Hudson should never have been added to this team they are ball hogs who play no defense and have hurt the play of cheese and allen this year.

    Also, how can you have no post game I have never seen this in 20 years of following gator basketball a team with absolutely no go too guy inside. We will be lucky to go .500 this year with this offense and it is getting almost impossible to watch.

    • Jalen Hudson is the team MVP through the first 10 games, K. Allen is MIA, reminds me of Kasey Hill at times when he wildly drives the lane out of control and losses the ball or puts up a wild shot. When you look at the box score, it’s obvious we lost this game at the FT line, we had more FGs and 3s. Defense and heart are missing too, this team cannot close out a game with a lead and cannot stretch a 12 point lead into a 20 point lead. Gators haven’t had a big man with offensive skills for a LONG time, and Egbunu won’t bring much to the offense upon his return, only hope he stays healthy and brings some defense and rebounding.

  13. saw only the second half……disappointed and somewhat frustrated by the way the players seemed to freeze up when crunch time came. I have no problem with bleeding the clock with a one point lead and inside of a minute left, but the problem comes when they let the clock wear down to inside of 10 seconds and they let the defense dictate the shot they have to take. Let’s face it, the Gators do not really have a go-to take charge guy who can drive and either close out or is fouled, or make a short jumper. Haven’t had that guy in many years, really.

  14. I do think coaching cost us this one. I dont understand all the substitutions, it seems when we have a good rythmn going he pulls them out. They must also get the press figured out as teams are pressing to slow them down and its working, 5th game in a row with no improvement. Holding the ball for last second shot and giving to Allen who is worst creator of shot on the team. SMH