Florida can’t get past Utah State, 65-62

Florida guard Andrew Nembhard drives to the basket against Utah State guard Diogo Brito (24) and forward Justin Bean, left, in the second half Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. Utah State defeated Florida 65-62. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — Utah State didn’t give up a field goal in the first 10 minutes Saturday and still led by only four points, which was enough to make coach Craig Smith rub his jaw in disbelief.

“The start,” he said, “was a little bit of a root canal.”

Pain relief came soon enough for the Aggies. They shot 50 percent in the second half, including 5 for 12 from 3-point range, and held Florida without a field goal for six minutes down the stretch to win 65-62 in the Orange Bowl Classic.

“Early it was kind of a battle,” forward Justin Bean said. “No one was hitting many shots. It just took a lot of physicality from our guys, staying together, executing our sets and just knowing the shots would fall.”

The Aggies (12-2) improved to 3-0 in games decided by a one-possession margin. They won despite losing hard-luck center Neemias Queta to an undisclosed injury in the first half.

Florida (7-4) continued to struggle after being ranked sixth in the preseason. The Gators missed their first 14 shots, and missed seven in a row in the final minutes after taking a 55-54 lead.

But coach Mike White saw offensive progress.

“We got a little better today,” White said. “We had a chance to beat a really good team — as good a team as we’ll play this season.”

Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He went 5 for 10 from 3-point range.

“Sam Merrill was absolutely outstanding,” Smith said. “He set everything up for us.”

Diogo Brito’s basket with 4:15 left put the Aggies ahead to stay, and he went 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the final 25 seconds. Bean had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Senior Kerry Blackshear led Florida with 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. He went 15 for 17 from the free throw line.

The Gators out-rebounded the tallest team in the nation 41-33 but shot only 32 percent, including 4 for 17 from 3-point range. Eight players missed before Florida finally sank a shot.

“We got good looks,” Blackshear said. “You’ve got to keep shooting.”


Queta, who recently returned from a knee injury, limped to the locker room in the first half. He went to the floor hard and was shaken up when he collided with a Florida player and was called for an offensive foul.

“It’s not the injury he was out with for a while,” said Smith, but he provided no further information.

Queta averaged 11.8 points and 8.9 rebounds last season as a freshman.


The Gators fell to 17-4 in the annual one-day Orange Bowl Classic. When someone complimented White on agreeing to a tough match-up with the defending Mountain West Conference champions, he said: “Wasn’t a very good decision, was it?”


The Aggies were 34th in votes in the latest AP poll, and two wins this week might not be enough for them to crack the Top 25.

“They’re a team that could make a deep run in March,” White said.

Florida continues to be a puzzle with an offense that has failed to top 70 points seven times.


The Gators play host to Long Beach State on Dec. 28, their final non-conference game before beginning Southeastern Conference play.

Utah State plays host to Eastern Oregon on Dec. 28.

Utah State 65, Florida 62

UTAH ST. (12-2)

Merrill 8-18 0-0 21, Bean 6-8 0-1 12, Porter 2-8 3-3 8, Miller 2-4 0-0 6, Brito 3-9 4-4 11, Anderson 2-4 0-1 4, Dorius 1-2 1-2 3, Queta 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 8-11 65.


Blackshear 3-14 15-17 22, Locke 3-12 1-1 9, Nembhard 3-6 2-4 8, Lewis 5-9 0-0 11, Johnson 3-13 0-0 6, Glover 1-2 0-0 2, Payne 1-2 0-0 2, Mann 1-4 0-0 2, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-62 18-22 62.

Halftime_27-27. 3-Point Goals_Utah St. 9-25 (Merrill 5-10, Miller 2-4, Brito 1-5, Porter 1-5, Anderson 0-1), Florida 4-17 (Locke 2-6, Lewis 1-1, Blackshear 1-4, Glover 0-1, Mann 0-1, Nembhard 0-1, Johnson 0-3). Rebounds_Utah St. 31 (Merrill, Bean 9), Florida 38 (Blackshear 14). Assists_Utah St. 19 (Merrill, Brito 5), Florida 8 (Nembhard 4). Total Fouls_Utah St. 17, Florida 17.




  1. It’s time to fire mike white I’m so sick of everyone at Gainesville din covering for him it reminds me of what they did for Will muschamp. Covering for foley again they can’t admit they just made a stupid hire. We could’ve had Archie Miller or jay Wright and we hired this clown . What a joke

    • I’m not willing to go that far yet Caw. But it’s a mystery how such a collection of “talent” could struggle so much offensively. The recruiting gurus thought very highly of our incoming freshmen. I don’t know the ins and outs of basketball and don’t know what constitutes “talent”. However, it’s increasingly obvious to me that irregardless of your athleticism, or ball handling skills or whether you can jump out of the gym, somebody needs to be able to put the ball in the basket. Something is wrong. I would blame youth and inexperience but I watched two scorers (Allen and Hudson) “regress” to the point they were almost liabilities. It’s early, but even Blackshear’s shooting numbers are down by 5% overall and 8 % from 3-point land from his performance at Va Tech. From my perspective, a lightly recruited shooting guard from Bountiful Utah was the most “talented” player on the floor today irregardless of his vertical or any other measures of physical talent. He could put the ball in the basket and helped his teammates do the same with timely passing. If athleticism ruled, we should have won this game going away. Got to be able to put the ball in the basket.

  2. I will be brief: 1. No movement away from the ball, no pass and cut weak side, no offensive rotation, poor screens, too much dribbling, poor shot selection, offensively challenged except Blackshear. 2. Nembhard is an average point guard. This is a .500 SEC team right now. This is my view as a bball coach overseas for 20 years.

  3. We got beat by a good team. The 5 minute and 7 minute droughts is what did us in. The team that beat us should be the blue print of how to move the ball. One of the issues is that there are certain guys (see Scott Lewis as a prime example) that get the ball and instead of their first thought being how to move the ball within the offense, they are thinking about getting a shot off or driving. The other is shot making. This team is not a good shooting team. The start of the game yesterday was about as painful as any Gator game ever. We only scored via two FTs from Blackshear. At least the losses are close now (whereas in the beginning of the season we were getting torched…see FSU). The fire Mike White is a bit premature. Let’s see how this season pans out for goodness sake. Comparing White to Champ is night and day to me.

  4. I have been saying the same thing as cattrick all season, except I don’t agree that Nembhard is average and I don’t believe that the players are offensively challenged, now when I watch Lewis wriggle through and put up points and Johnson bull his way and the two freshman point guards shoot. However, without watching practices, you can’t really know whether the coach has a poor program or that the players just don’t get it. The years before Horford, Brewer and Noah, I felt that Donovan wasn’t a good coach because his players played one-on-one and never moved without the ball. I blamed that on Donovan, but then, miraculously, when the trio came along, they all moved without the ball, and played as a team and they did that for three years winning the title in the 2d and 3d years. After that, I watched for several seasons and saw that Donovan, without talented teams won anyway, but each year noted that the players played selflessly and worked together. Before last year, it seemed that White’s teams played together but last year and this year they haven’t . But then again, except for Blackshear, they are really young and maybe it takes awhile for young guys to absorb the lessons learned in practice. After all, who on the team can lead them? There isn’t any Cuosso or Wilbekin in sight. Clearly, yesterday’s plan was to have Blackshear play a high post and have the rest of the team move around him looking for open shots, but whn the young players forget to move, the plan fell apart. As I said above, you can’t really tell if White is doing it well without seeing practices and we won’t know if these guys will learn to move without the ball until later this season. If by the end of the season they haven’t learned to move without the ball and they are still getting only 8 assists per game (LeBron James averages 10.6 assists per game, but then his guys move without the ball), I might wonder if Mike White really knows how to coach. On the other hand, he really recruits much better than Donovan did. Billy was at best able to get only one top player per year (Beal, Vaughan for example). And Mike has gotten at least 3 this year and last.

    • White a better recruiter than Billy D? Not sure how long you have been following UF bsketball. Mike Miller, Teddy Dupay, Udonis Haslam. Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Chandler Parsons, Nick Calathes, Anthony Roberson, Natt Walsh, David Lee, Matt Bonner, Pat Young, Kenny Boynton, Donnell Harvey. White not close to Billy D as a recruiter or coach. Not many are,

  5. Agree with most all comments here. At times (a little too many times), the Gators look like a schoolyard pickup team, each man playing his own game. Saw White on the sidelines screaming to MOVE the ball. When they do some ball movement, they seem to get no closer than slightly beyond the 3 point line. There is no penetration except for Johnson. I think it’s mostly the players not doing what the coach teaches at practice.

    We have to just wait this thing out.

  6. My observation of Nembhard is amended a bit: Right now, too much dribbling. When he breaks free into the lane (which is seldom), he often fails to take the 10-ft jump shot. Looks instead to dribble out. As PG, you MUST able to drive the lane and either take the shot or take it to the basket or find the open man in the corner. I would love to watch a 2 hour practice to see what White is telling his players.

  7. It is still a journey. And if some fans want to see Mickey freakn’ Mouse before seeing all the turnpike nonsense, then so be it. And I do see and know that Coach Mike White needs to do something differently on offense. But with this team’s CONTINUITY and CONSISTENCY. The talent is there. The potential was shown 2 games ago. The team is young, and the only consistent senior is Blackshear. Can you see now crying Gator fans? That Utah State team yesterday was EXPERIENCED and oh, that school has been to the NCAA Tournament 20, yes 20 years straight. So….
    Go Gators Just gell!

  8. The chemistry on the team is very weak! No leadership among players. Players that were very highly regarded shooters out of high school and AAU lose their shooting touch when they come into the program and many get worse as they play in the system. Tre Mann was regarded as a Steph Curry type players and outplayed many of the McDonald All Americans in practice and other all star events. Looks totally lost at UF while others are thrivng at North Carolina and Arizona. Locke has regarded as one of the best 3 point shooters coming out of high school is very inconsistent and regressed signficantly sine last year. Kevaugh Allen’s shooting got worse each year and Hudson’s shooting declined significantly in his second year. I am not sure if the shooting decline could be something they are doing in the weight room with the strength and conditioning coach or the UF coaching is that bad. Shooting can be coached.

    • No doubt team chemistry isn’t what it needs to be, but I wouldn’t call it weak. With three sophomores and four freshmen playing significant minutes, we should’ve expected it to take some time. I don’t think any of these guys are selfish, they just need to learn when to shoot and when to make the extra pass. Sometimes they try to be too unselfish.

      You can’t just make a blanket statement that all the Gators’ shooters have regressed every year under CMW. Hudson definitely did, but you need to bring some stats for the other guys.

      As far as Mann, and freshmen in general, there’s an adjustment to a longer 3-point shot. Until this season it was an extra foot. Now it’s almost 2.5 feet, and the veteran players are having to adjust to an increase of almost 1.5 feet. Three-point shooting percentages are down across the country. It’s definitely separating the men from the boys.

      Preston Greene is the Gators’ S&C coach. He’s in his 9th year, which means he was here for Billy Donovan’s run of three Elite Eights and a Final Four, as well as White’s three straight tournament appearances which include one Elite Eight. It’s not S&C.

      The Gators’ nonconference schedule has been one of the toughest in the country. Let’s see what the rest of the season brings before casting stones.

  9. As long as M.White is coach, Gators will never return to the dominance it was under Donovan. He cannot develop players nor run effective plays. His style is run and gun. Shame on AD to give him an extension and bonuses. Send him back to Conference USA.