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Gators fall to Utah State at Orange Bowl Basketball Classic

Florida falls to Utah State 65-62, held without field goal for 6 minutes

Utah State guard Abel Porter passes past Florida forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. in the first half of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic tournament, Dec. 21, 2019, in Sunrise, Florida.
Utah State guard Abel Porter passes past Florida forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. in the first half of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic tournament, Dec. 21, 2019, in Sunrise, Florida. (AP Photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Sam Merrill scored 21 points Saturday and Utah State held Florida without a field goal for six minutes down the stretch to win 65-62 in the Orange Bowl Classic.

Merrill went 5 for 10 from 3-point range and added nine rebounds and five assists. Utah State won despite losing hard-luck center Neemias Queta to an injury in the first half.

The Aggies (12-2) improved to 3-0 in games decided by a one-possession margin. 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. 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.

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 outrebounded the tallest team in the nation 41-33 but shot only 32 percent, including 4 for 17 from 3-point range.

Justin Bean had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Utah State.