Kerry Blackshear Jr. did most of his damage at the free throw line in the loss.

UF forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. stepped up to the free-throw line looking to give his team the lead.

As was the case for much of the game, he was automatic.

The two free throws gave the Gators a 55-54 lead with just over six minutes to go.

For the next five minutes though, Florida failed to make a shot.

That untimely drought proved to be the difference as the Gators fell to Utah State on Saturday 65-62 at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Florida.

A cold snap within the home of the Florida Panthers affected the Gators (7-4) offense early.

Florida looked out of sorts and out of rhythm, starting the game 0 for 14 from the field.

Luckily for UF, Utah State (12-2) began the game almost as cold (2 for 8) and despite the nightmare of a beginning, Florida was down just 7-2 when it made its first bucket almost nine minutes into the game.

And who do you go to when you need a spark? Your veteran big man.

Blackshear Jr. stepped up with 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half to keep the Gators within striking distance.

Florida took advantage of Utah State's giveaways (10 points off nine turnovers) and fouls (6 of 6 from the free-throw line) to help bring a 27-27 gridlock into the half.

For Utah State, forward Justin Bean (six points and five rebounds) and guard Sam Merrill (eight points and four rebounds) led the team, but an 11-of-27 performance from the field, including 4 of 13 from three, allowed UF to stay in the game early.

The Gators continued to build off the offensive performance during the last 10 minutes of the first half by starting the second on a 9-3 run, constructing its largest lead of the game at six.

After that, the contest turned into a back-and-forth affair where the teams exchanged pivotal runs during the last 10 minutes of the game.

The Aggies built two-possession leads four separate times during those final 10 minutes behind the shot of Merrill. The senior led his team with 21 points and knocked down buckets that were daggers to Florida's chances late.

The Gators always found a way to crawl back, however, tying the game at 49 after being down five, and taking a one-point lead off of Blackshear Jr's free throw after being down 54-49.

But the drought after that proved to be the decider and the Gators missed a prime opportunity for a quality win.

Despite the loss, Florida had two double-digit scorers in Blackshear Jr. (22 points and 14 rebounds) and guard Scottie Lewis (11 points and three steals).

Those two will need to continue to develop in UF coach Mike White's offense as SEC play starts in just a couple of weeks.

UF has one more non-conference game against Long Beach State before Alabama comes to the O'Connell Center on Jan. 4.

Contact Evan Lepak at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @evanmplepak.

Evan Lepak is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida. Evan is the assistant sports editor and is currently covering UF men's basketball. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2018.