Florida guard Jalen Hudson stood at the left wing of the three-point line as he received an incoming pass from teammate Egor Koulechov. As soon as Hudson shot the ball, he started backpedaling, confident his attempt would fall through the basket.
In the UF men’s basketball team’s 88-73 home win over Arkansas on Wednesday night, Hudson did what he does best: score. He finished the night with 21 points, a feat overshadowed by guard KeVaughn Allen’s 28.
“I was able to get in the lane, just trying to be aggressive,” Hudson said. “Had a couple shots fall, so I kind of felt good.”
Hudson’s performance was no surprise. He has been the Gators’ (13-5, 5-1 SEC) most consistent scoring option this season, leading the team with an average of 16.5 points per game as well as 46 total made three-pointers. Hudson has scored in single digits just twice this season, while recording at least 21 points in five games.
On Wednesday, his strong play continued, giving Florida a boost that helped Florida pull away from the Razorbacks. During a 13-2 run midway through the first half, the redshirt junior dropped eight points off one three-pointer and five free throws, extending UF’s lead to 16 with eight minutes remaining.
“He’s consistently improving his energy level,” Florida coach Mike White said. “Definitely one of his best games this season.”
The Gators will need Hudson’s positive energy when they face Kentucky Saturday night at 8:15 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The Wildcats (14-4, 4-2 SEC) are undefeated at home this season, with their losses to Kansas, UCLA, Tennessee and South Carolina all occuring on the road.
Kentucky features a young lineup, as all six players who have started for UK are either freshmen or redshirt freshmen. The team’s top five scorers are all first-year players as well, including forward Kevin Knox, who’s averaging 14.6 points per game.
Despite having five players averaging double-digit scoring, the Wildcats average fewer points per game (77.7) than the Gators (82.0). Florida’s top-four scorers — guards Hudson, Koulechov, Allen and Chris Chiozza — will be relied on heavily to give the Gators an offensive edge.
On the boards, however, Kentucky holds the advantage. Led by forwards Knox (5.7 rebounds per game) and Wenyen Gabriel (5.7 rebounds per game), the Wildcats’ inside presence will challenge Florida center Kevarrius Hayes and forward Keith Stone.
White said he knows how talented an opponent the Wildcats are, but said he will prepare for UK the same way he would for any other team.
“(Kentucky will) be a really tough task,” he said. “We’ll have to have great preparation.”