Jalen Hudson

Guard Jalen Hudson said he’s looking forward to opening the season against FSU. “I live for games like this. I never had a season where your first game is a really tough competitor and a rival,” he said.  

 

Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young donned the orange and blue the last time the Florida basketball team scored a win against rival Florida State.

That was back in 2013. The Gators program has undergone a leadership change since then, as legendary coach Billy Donovan left for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Coach Mike White has led UF to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances after earning only an NIT bid in his first year.

But there’s one thing White hasn’t been able to achieve during his three-year tenure in Gainesville: a victory over the hated Seminoles.

He’ll have the chance to do just that on Tuesday night, as the 2018-19 squad will take the court against No. 17 FSU. This will be the first time Florida has opened the season against Florida State since 2000-01.

Memories of last year’s 83-66 home loss still sting the veteran-heavy team. UF entered that game ranked fifth in the country after a near upset of top-ranked Duke. The Gators spiraled after losing to the Seminoles, dropping games to eventual tournament darling Loyola-Chicago and Clemson. Florida was out of the top 25 not even two weeks later.

Senior guard Jalen Hudson said all he remembers from the 17-point loss is being dominated.

“On every aspect,” he said. “Rebounding, running the floor. I think they even shot better than we did.”

White won’t have to worry about game planning against FSU’s leading scorer from last year, as forward Phil Cofer injured his foot in October and will miss an undisclosed amount of time.

The Gators should still be concerned about senior guard Terance Mann. Very concerned.

At 6-foot-7, he could present a matchup nightmare for UF. Last December, Mann hit 11 of his 17 shots for 25 points against the Gators. He also grabbed eight boards.

“He just seems like a coach out there on the floor,” White said. “Good at everything. Good driver, good shooter, great feel, rebounder, defender, the whole thing.”

Mann won’t present the only matchup problem for Florida. 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje towers over UF starting center Kevarrius Hayes. The slightly undersized Hayes (6-foot-9) has struggled in his career when facing size in the front court.

Opening against a bitter rival -- one that is coming off an Elite Eight appearance no less -- will present a challenge the Gators don’t usually receive when they open with a mid-major opponent at home. But White says he might actually prefer it this way.

“...If we don’t have a great week leading into this game, it’s a lot different than having an average week leading into a guarantee game and playing a low-major team,” White said.

Hudson concurred with his coach.

“I love games like this,” Hudson said. “I live for games like this. I never had a season where your first game is a really tough competitor and a rival.”

 

Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno or contact him at [email protected]

 

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered UF golf and lacrosse. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.