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.