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Wednesday, December 01, 2021
<p>Guard Noah Locke (10) started instead Jalen Hudson and contributed 11 points in Florida's 72-49 win over Stanford. </p>

Guard Noah Locke (10) started instead Jalen Hudson and contributed 11 points in Florida's 72-49 win over Stanford. 

Florida Gators guard Noah Locke let a small grin tug at the side of his lips.

He had just hit a three-pointer in the corner to put his team up 46-20 over the Stanford Cardinals. The ball rolled around the rim for what seemed like an hour before it dropped to continue the offensive onslaught.

Locke received the first start of his young college career over incumbent guard Jalen Hudson in

Florida’s 72-49 win over Stanford in the Bahamas during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

Locke finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from three).

Neither team got out to a fast start. Both combined to shoot 0-for-11 until 16:45 when Florida guard Deaundrae Ballard hit a jumper at the free throw line to break the 0-0 tie.

It was a sloppy first five minutes or so, as each team looked sluggish and had minimal off-ball movement and several turnovers.

But UF pulled away from Stanford (2-3) in the frame with a 12-0 run to grasp a 32-13 lead at the break.

Ballard got the Gators going, catalyzing the offense in the first half. He went 4-for-8 (2-for-3 from three) with 12 points and dominated the frame. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 from three).

Guard Andrew Nembhard played well against the Cardinals, closing with eight points (4-of-7 from the field), five assists and three rebounds. He completed a three-point play in which his right arm was pulled behind him and still finished at the rim.

Guard KeVaughn Allen closed with 13 points on 4-of-7 (1-of-2 from three).

Hudson was benched down the stretch of Wednesday night’s game against Oklahoma and only played seven minutes. Locke, for measure, played 21.

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Instant Analysis

When in doubt, the Gators need to get Ballard the ball right now. He’s been the team’s most effective player all season aside from last game against Oklahoma, where he failed to score in seven minutes. Other than that, he hasn’t had a game with less than six points and is currently 20-for-34 (58.8 percent) on the year.

Coach Mike White’s decision to not only bench Hudson for the start, but also barely play him at all is intriguing. Perhaps he sent a message about Hudson’s effort, or perhaps he rode Locke’s innate shooting ability. The team’s energy level raised significantly in this one.

Regardless, it’s something to keep an eye on in the next few contests.

Florida shot well today - much-improved since its last few games. It started to be seen against the Sooners and carried over to the Cardinals. The team shot 52.7 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three. The 46.7 percent was easily its’ best all year - the closest was last game against Oklahoma at 39.3 percent.

But it should be noted that Stanford’s defense was really, really poor. UF got several points on wide-open looks and easy runs to the basket.

The Gators’ defense, on the other hand, was suffocating. The Cardinals didn’t have many easy shots and turned the ball over 20 times as opposed to Florida’s 11. Stanford’s starters only scored two points in the first half on two free throws with 0.4 left.

Finally, the Gators didn’t look out of place on the boards, winning the rebounding advantage 31-26.

UF now takes on the winner between Butler and Middle Tennessee State Friday night at 7:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m.

Chris O’Brien is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at cobrien@alligator.org

Guard Noah Locke (10) started instead Jalen Hudson and contributed 11 points in Florida's 72-49 win over Stanford. 

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