The University of Florida was hoping the Orange Bowl Classic would bring it good fortune following a recent tough stretch against high-profile opponents.
Once again, a visit to Sunrise proved beneficial to the Gators.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza each scored in double figures to help the Gators hang on for a 72-70 victory over Oklahoma State Saturday night at the BB&T Center.
Finney-Smith scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Robinson finished with 16 points and six rebounds as the Gators (7-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and won their first game since Dec. 1.
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Florida won its sixth consecutive game in the Orange Bowl Classic and beat Oklahoma State for the third time ever and first time since 2000 in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
Florida also got a major contribution on the defensive end down the stretch from John Egbunu, who blocked Chris Olivier in the paint in the closing seconds with the Gators leading by four. Egbunu smacked the ball off the backboard hard and the ball ended up near the top of the key where guard Jawun Evans fired a three-pointer that missed.
Finney-Smith made one of two free throws which left the door open when Evans hit a three with six tenths of a second remaining. But the Gators successfully inbounded the ball and time expired.
Florida struggled at the free throw line, making only 12 of 26 attempts. But its successful long-range shooting factored heavily into the victory and was a welcome change following some recent poor performances in that department.
Florida’s three losses this season have all come against ranked opponents - Miami, Michigan State and Purdue, the three of which have a combined 32-2 record. In In the Gators’ most recent defeats - to No. 15 UM and top-ranked Michigan State – they had a chance to win, but shot poorly down the stretch. Against the Hurricanes, Florida shot 1 of 12 from three-point range.
That wasn’t the case against the Cowboys (7-4) Saturday as the Gators hit five of their eight three-pointers in the second half.
Chiozza’s triple following one by Finney-Smith were part of a 9-0 surge that nearly helped Florida pull away with under 10 minutes left in the second half. Chiozza then stole the ball on the ensuing possession, drove to the basket for a score and drew a foul to convert a three-point play.
Florida trailed by as many as eight points in what was mostly an evenly-played first half, but battled back to take a one-point lead by halftime.
-Redshirt senior Alex Murphy, who missed the first nine games of the season with a foot injury, played off the bench Saturday. Murphy scored four points in the first half, making a layup and a jumper on subsequent possessions shortly after entering four minutes into the game.
Florida State 64, Florida Atlantic 59: The Seminoles’ youth with freshmen guards Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley is what could make one of the more explosive teams in the ACC.
But that same lack of experience nearly led to an upset defeat against in-state foe Florida Atlantic Saturday night.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, Bacon scored a team-high 23 points and Beasley finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds to lead FSU (8-2) to a victory in the Orange Bowl Classic and its fourth in a row overall.
"I thought FAU had a lot more energy than we did and they executed a lot better early on," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We adjusted at halftime emotionally especially at halftime. Sometimes games like this help you grow and develop and have a clear understanding that if you are not ready to play from the beginning, these games will not be kind to you."
Personnel at the BB&T Center spent the better part of 40 minutes past the game’s scheduled start time trying to fix one of the baskets after it had sunk below the regulation height.
FAU (2-9) jumped out to an 11-3 lead following the delayed start.
With 15:20 remaining in the half, FSU guard Montay Brandon’s dunk attempt again dislodged the basket causing another delay.
The arena’s crew fixed the technical issues roughly 15 minutes later.
FSU’s shooting woes continued, however, as the Seminoles shot 8 of 31 in the first half.
The Owls solid play inside in the first half also had something to do with the Seminoles’ struggles. FAU scored 20 points in the paint led by C.J. Turman, who finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
"They waited 40 minutes just like we did to start and they adjusted to the delays better than we did," Hamilton said. "This is a learning experience for these guys and I’m just glad we came out on the winning end."
Late in the first half, FSU began turning up its defense and started its comeback. It led to solid transition scores and better looks at the basket as the Noles finished shooting 50 percent in the second half.
Sophomore guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes sparked a 14-1 Seminoles surge that carried over from the final minutes of the first half and gave FSU its first lead with 9:00 remaining.
Beasley’s breakaway dunk off a steal by Rathan-Mayes put the Noles ahead 47-45.
Tied at 56 with 2:28 left, another steal by Rathan-Mayes led to a dunk by Beasley. Bacon stole the ball quickly on the ensuing inbounds pass and scored again to make it a two-possession game. Marquan Botley, who led the Owls with 13 points, hit a three-pointer to make it 60-59. Rathan-Mayes hit a pair of shots in the closing moments to seal the outcome.