Gators beat Oklahoma State 72-70 in Orange Bowl Classic
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) The offensively challenged Florida Gators relied on their defense for scoring Saturday.
Florida forced 14 turnovers and converted them into 21 points to compensate for another rough shooting night, beating Oklahoma State 72-70 in the Orange Bowl Classic.
Dorian Finney-Smith had 16 points, nine rebounds and two of the Gators' 10 steals.
''We want to be a hard-nosed team, and pride ourselves on defense,'' Finney-Smith said. ''Tonight we did a great job of creating turnovers. We had a lot of energy.''
Florida converted three consecutive steals into baskets for a 44-39 lead early in the second half. Cowboys coach Travis Ford praised Florida's ability to capitalize on steals.
''You're going to turn it over a few times,'' Ford said. ''They converted. That was the difference.''
Florida (7-3) had lost two games in a row, both on the road against ranked teams.
''It feels good to get a W,'' coach Mike White said. ''It will be a much better ride home than it would have been.''
Oklahoma State (7-4) lost for the third time in five games.
Florida State rallied to beat Florida Atlantic in the first game of the one-day event, 64-59.
The Gators won despite shooting 8 for 26 (31 percent) from 3-point range and 12 for 26 (46 percent) from the free-throw line.
They went 2 for 6 from the line in the final 41 seconds but the Cowboys failed to take advantage, coming away empty when they missed four shots on one possession when they trailed by four points in the closing seconds.
''We didn't finish, and we didn't make some key plays,'' Ford said. ''But we're figuring it out. This is a step forward.''
The game was tied at 51 before the Gators went on a 9-0 run that included 3-pointers by Finney-Smith and Chris Chiozza and a three-point play by Chiozza.
Oklahoma State trailed 64-54 with six minutes left and cut the margin to two. But Finney-Smith sank a 3-pointer, and the Cowboys never had the ball with a chance to tie down the stretch.
''We won this one a little bit ugly,'' White said. ''Hopefully it's a positive for us.''
Finney-Smith was chosen the game's most valuable player.
Chiozza had 11 points and four steals. Kasey Hill added seven points and eight assists for the Gators, who had only seven turnovers.
''That is a veteran, talented team that is going to win a lot of games,'' Ford said.
Jawun Evans had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Cowboys. Leyton Hammonds and Jeff Newberry added 14 points apiece.
Florida: Center John Egbunu was held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season because he had been outplayed in practice recently by Kevarrius Hayes, White said.
Oklahoma State: Leading scorer Paul Forte missed his eighth game in a row because of an elbow injury. There's no timetable for his return, Ford said.
The Gators are shooting 62 percent from the line this season, and the struggles have spread to Egbunu. He was at 77 percent coming into the game but went 2 for 9.
''That's a little surprising,'' White said. ''He's really shooting well in practice from the line. We'll continue to get a lot of reps there - starting tomorrow.''
Florida plays host to Jacksonville on Tuesday.
Oklahoma State has a 10-day break before playing host to Missouri-Kansas City on Dec. 29.