No. 22 Florida snapped a demoralizing three-game losing streak with a big victory last time out and hopes to add another one when it meets Clemson at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla. on Saturday afternoon. The Gators dropped games against Duke and Florida State before suffering a surprising loss to Loyola Chicago, but knocked off Cincinnati 66-60 last Saturday in Newark, N.J.
“We just focused on ourselves, what we can do better, and especially our mental toughness,” Florida’s senior guard Egor Koulechov told reporters. “I thought we were really soft (during the losing streak). We took a step forward (last Saturday) with a win over a tough team.” The Gators have won seven straight in the Orange Bowl Classic, which also includes a game between Florida State and Oklahoma State in the one-day event, but extending their streak won’t be easy in the first meeting with the Tigers since 1957. Clemson is off to its best start since 2008-09 when it won the first 16 games and the Tigers have won four games by 20 or more points, suffering their only loss to Temple on Nov. 17. Clemson coach Brad Brownell, who goes after his 300th career win, has a team scoring 81.8 points per game with five players averaging in double figures.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2, FSN Florida
ABOUT FLORIDA (6-3): Senior guard Chris Chiozza stepped up to score the game’s final six points to finish with 15 against Cincinnati and is dishing out a team-best 6.1 assists per contest in the early going. “I wasn’t looking to take the game over,” Chiozza, who is averaging 11.8 points and has made 12-of-23 from 3-point range overall, told reporters. “I was just trying to make good plays for my team and a couple fell into my hands.” Junior guard Jalen Hudson tops the team in scoring (19.1) and is hitting 52.7 percent from the field while Koulechov (16.1) is second.
ABOUT CLEMSON (8-1): Senior forward Donte Grantham tops the team at 16 points per contest, draining 25-of-40 from the field during the team’s current four-game win streak, and averages 6.2 rebounds. Junior guard Marcquise Reed has averaged 18 points the last three games to push his season mark to 13.8 and junior guard Shelton Mitchell is contributing 12.9 points and a team-high five assists. Junior forward Elijah Thomas leads the team in rebounding (8.8) and is averaging 14.3 points to go along with 10 boards the past four contests.
1. Clemson senior G Gabe DeVoe has drained 11-of-23 from 3-point range over the last four games after missing all six against Temple.
2. Chiozza (418) needs 10 assists to move from ninth to sixth on Florida’s all-time list with Scottie Wilbekin (419), Greg Williams (423) and Vernon Delancy (427) just ahead of him.
3. Reed, who started his career at Robert Morris, is 18 points away from 1,000, and Grantham needs 25 to reach the milestone.
PREDICTION: Florida 76, Clemson 72