The expression on UF guard Jalen Hudson’s face was one no one has seen in a while.
He received a pass midway through the first half while standing on the upper right side of the three-point arc and just let it fly. Uncontested and with perfect form, just like in practice.
It went in. For the first time in four games, Hudson had made a three-pointer.
And his reaction was similar to a football player making a huge tackle: pure determination.
He started high-fiving his teammates while slowly walking to the bench for the under-12 media timeout. Then he saw his coach, Mike White. They embraced with a hug.
In Florida’s 77-56 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday in Sunrise for the Orange Bowl Classic, the Hudson of old made his return.
He followed that three-pointer with two more back-to-back. He was also on the floor for the most time since he played 21 minutes against Oklahoma on Nov. 21.
Hudson finished the game with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, with nine of his shots coming from beyond the arc. He also collected six rebounds and two assists.
Hudson wasn’t the only one to play well. Freshman guard Noah Locke anchored Florida’s shooting efforts, nailing five three’s and shooting 55 percent from the field.
He put up a game-high 15 points and grabbed two rebounds and two assists.
While Hudson and Locke led the attack from the perimeter, center Kavarrius Hayes played his best game of the season.
Hayes provided the Gators with a strong inside presence, something they have been lacking for most of the season. Florida worked the ball inside to Hayes, who either dunked it or went for the layup, all of which went uncontested.
He went 5-for-5 from the field and tied a season-high with 12 points. Hayes also collected seven rebounds, blocked three shots and stole the ball once.
While UF was up big for most of the game, FGCU made it a close contest early on.
Florida opened the game on a 23-8 run over the first 10 and a half minutes thanks to threes from Hudson and Locke. The Eagles responded with a 14-3 surge to cut UF’s lead to four.
FGCU guard Schadrac Casimir scored the team’s first 10 points, and baskets from guards Zach Scott and Decardo Day and forward Troy Baxter Jr. down the stretch of the early run proved to be trouble for the Gators.
From there, though, Florida regained control of the game, taking a 37-26 lead going into the half.
Whatever momentum FGCU had in the first half disappeared in the second. The Gators dominated in almost every facet of the game in the final 20 minutes. Aside from scoring more points, UF garnered more assists, steals, and blocks. Florida turned the ball over six times compared to FGCU’s 11.
The Gators return to the court on Dec. 29 against Butler. The last time they faced off was on Nov. 23 at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, with the Bulldogs taking the game 61-54.
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior guard Jalen Hudson nailed four three-pointers and finished with 14 points in the Gators 77-56 win over FGCU on Saturday.