SUNRISE, Fla. — Marcquise Reed threw a 75-foot pass in the final minute to put the Clemson Tigers ahead, and kept them there by making a free throw mix-up moot.
With the junior guard’s help, Clemson rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday to beat No. 22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic.
Clemson (9-1) beat a ranked team for only the eighth time in school history and continued its best start since 2008.
“It was a real good victory for our program — a steppingstone for the future,” Reed said.
Florida (6-4) lost for the fourth time in the past five games, and Clemson won despite having a point taken off the scoreboard with 4 seconds left. Elijah Thomas’ free throw put the Tigers up 70-68, but the point was wiped out when the officials realized it was Reed who had been fouled.
Reed then made two free throws to help seal the victory.
Before that, with the Tigers trailing 68-67, Reed rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Florida’s KeVaughn Allen and threw a football-style pass from one free-throw lane to the other, hitting Thomas on the run for an easy score.
“We didn’t sprint back the way we were supposed to,” Gators guard Jalen Hudson said. “(Thomas) leaked out before anybody had secured the rebound, which was a risky play for him, but it ended up going in their favor.”
Florida coach Mike White said the designated safety on defense blew his assignment.
“In the locker room, the guy whose job it was raised his hand and said, ‘Coach, my bad,'” White said. “I’d rather not say who that is.'”
White has been unhappy with his team’s transition defense this season. The Gators allowed only seven fast-break points, but that included Thomas’ decisive dunk.
Reed finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds, and was voted the outstanding player. Gabe DeVoe added 19 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who shot 51 percent.
Clemson led for only 80 seconds, but coach Brad Brownell earned his 300th victory.
“Obviously a terrific win for our team,” Brownell said. “For most of the game, it felt like Florida was in control. We did a good job in a couple instances of battling back.”
Hudson scored the Gators’ first 12 points and finished with 23, but the Gators shot 1 for 10 over the final 5:19.
“We had some decent shots,” White said. “We just weren’t able to convert.”
The meeting was the first between the teams since 1957.
No. 19 Florida State lost to Oklahoma State 71-70 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Egor Koulechov sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Gators a 40-33 halftime lead, and they were up 47-35 early in the second half. Clemson took its first lead since 4 minutes into the game when DeVoe sank a 3-pointer to make it 67-66.
“We never got down on ourselves,” Reed said. “We stayed poised and played with composure for 40 minutes.”
White has been unhappy with his team’s effort and said hype about the Gators’ potential hasn’t helped.
“The guys have gotten so much noise about how good we are, it has been a challenge to find that hunger you’re looking for,” he said. “Tuesday and Wednesday we were horrible in practice. I don’t understand it. I could count the number of bad practices we had last year on one hand.”
The Gators play host to James Madison on Wednesday.
Clemson plays host to South Carolina on Tuesday.