It didn’t take much to get Florida guard Jalen Hudson going on Tuesday.
Starting at the top of the key two minutes into the game, Hudson barrelled to the basket with Alabama guard Dazon Ingram trailing him like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner.
Shoot. Miss. Repeat.
As soon as he jabbed one foot into the paint, the junior leapt through the air, waiting until his left arm was just under the basket to release the ball for an easy layup. That basket may have been his first of the night and cut into Florida’s 7-6 deficit at the time, but it foreshadowed the kind of game both Hudson and the Gators (19-11, 10-7 SEC) would have on Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa.
In Florida’s 73-52 blowout win on the road, Hudson finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, which included three three-pointers and six free throws.
If it wasn’t for a 35-point performance in a double-overtime win against Gonzaga on Nov. 24, Hudson would have put up the most points in his UF career.
“He’s capable of doing that pretty often,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He is such a gifted scorer.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Gators.
Entering its regular season finale against Kentucky on Saturday at noon at the O’Connell Center, Florida will rely on Hudson’s play to overcome the Wildcats. A win would secure a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament.
“We’re just trying to compete,” Hudson said. “It was a good win and a great (NCAA Tournament) resume game too.”
With the way the Richmond, Virginia, native has been playing as of late, a trip to the Big Dance could be in Florida’s future.
Hudson averaged 13.1 points in February and scored double-digit figures in six of the last eight games. Despite two hiccups along the way — six points the first time the Gators played Alabama on Feb. 3 and zero against Georgia on Feb. 14 — he has led Florida by example.
What makes Hudson an offensive threat is his ability to score from every end of the court. As he showed against the Crimson Tide on Tuesday, Hudson can shoot from the perimeter, drive to basket, make mid-range jumpers and earn free points at the charity stripe.
With the potential for another big performance against Kentucky this weekend, Hudson’s mind isn’t on what he wants to accomplish on offense, but rather on the main goal of the team.
“We’re trying to finish the season out strong,” Hudson said. “I really just want to dance with my teammates, I want to make it to the (NCAA) Tournament.”
A video broadcast contributed to this report.