University of Florida

Jalen Hudson snaps out of slump to spark Gators to a 77-56 win over Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gators guard Jalen Hudson (3) does the Gator Chomp after the Gators defeat Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Saturday, December 22, 2018.
Florida Gators guard Jalen Hudson (3) does the Gator Chomp after the Gators defeat Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Saturday, December 22, 2018. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Florida Gators senior shooting guard Jalen Hudson was talking trash to his own bench on Saturday night, and that was probably the best indication that he was back in his zone.

Hudson made 4-of-9 three-pointers and scored 14 points as his Gators defeated Florida Gulf Coast 77-56 as part of the annual Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at the BB&T Center.

Hudson, who led Florida in scoring last season, had been in a horrific slump. Entering Saturday, he was shooting just 17.6 percent on three-pointers (6-of-34).

“I should be happier for the team, but I’m lying,” Gators coach Mike White said. “I’m happy for the team, but I’m very happy for (Hudson).

“It’s been a little difficult for him. It was nice to see the ball go in for him.”

But scoring wasn’t the only thing Hudson did on Saturday to help the Gators improve to 7-4. He also had six rebounds, including three on offense, two assists and just one turnover.

“In the middle of the second half, he had a couple of possessions that were really impressive defensively,” White said. “He was rotating, flying around. He had great body language.

“You could tell he was feeling good about himself because he was talking trash to our bench about how well he was defending.”

Hudson wasn’t the only Gators athlete who played well. Freshman guard Noah Locke scored a game-high 15 points, including 5-of-9 on three-pointers.

Gators senior center Kevarrius Hayes posted 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, making 5-of-5 shots from the floor and 2-of-2 from the line on a night of perfect shooting.

In addition, sophomore guard Deaundrae Ballard was the fourth Gators player who scored in double figures, adding 11 points.

The Gators, who are 17-3 all-time in the OBC Classic, locked down Florida Gulf Coast (5-9), holding the Eagles to 39.1-percent shooting, including 2-of-14 on three-pointers.

Florida never trailed in the game as Locke hit the Gators’ first two shots – both three-pointers. Florida Gulf Coast kept it close for a while, trailing 26-22 with 4:20 left in the first half. But the Gators closed the half on an 18-4 run, and they went into the break with a 44-26 lead.

The game was never in doubt in the second half, but the biggest takeaway for Florida was Hudson’s slump-busting performance.

“I just had to step up and shoot with confidence,” Hudson said. “It feels good.”

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