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(AP Photo/Ron Irby)

Gators Beat Florida Gulf Coast In Orange Bowl Classic

Gators fans finally got the performance they were waiting for from Jalen Hudson.

The senior showed why the expectations were so high for him coming into this season with his 14 point performance, leading Florida to a 77-56 win over Florida Gulf Coast in the Orange Bowl Classic.

It All Starts Defensively

The Gators didn’t trail at all as they led from start to finish.

Florida set the tone defensively as they held FGCU to 39% shooting. The Eagles really struggled when it came to three-point shooting as they shot a low 14% (2-for-14) from deep.

Kevarrius Hayes made his presence felt with three blocks and seven rebounds. Hayes was a team-high +29 when it came to +/-. The big man also had a perfect night offensively he shot five-for-five from the field, scoring 12 points. What may be even more impressive than his points was Hayes ability to play big minutes without fouling. The big man played 24 minutes, only drawing one foul.

The Gators did a nice job winning the turnover battle as the Eagles gave away the ball 22 times. As a result, Florida was able to score 34 points off them.

Guard Noah Locke talked about how much of an emphasis defense continues to be for head coach Mike White.

“Coach White is really on us about doing our job and playing hard,” Locke said. “I feel like if we stay locked in on defense it helps a lot.”

A Hudson Led Gators Offense Is A Good One

It was a solid night for the Gators shooting the basketball as they shot 45% from the field. UF went 11-for-30 from long range.

The biggest takeaway from the offense was the reemergence of Hudson. One of the biggest storylines of the season has been the senior’s struggles. On Saturday however, Hudson was confident with the basketball as he shot the ball 11 times.

“I just tried to step up and shoot the ball with confidence,” Hudson said. “My coaches and teammates really instill confidence in me.”

Coach White was happy with how his team played but was more happy with how Hudson performed.

“I’m happy for the team but I’m very happy for him as well,” White said. “It’s been difficult for him and I’m excited to see more going forward.”

Hudson was voted the game’s most valuable player by the media in attendance.

Freshman Stepping Up

To go along with Hudson’s 14, Freshman Noah Locke contributed big time with a team-leading 15 points. The Baltimore native was 5-for-9 from three-point land.

Locke was able to step up when the Gators offense seemed to stall. Heading into the game, he was shooting 42% from three.

Next Up: Butler

Florida got a much-needed win over the Eagles on Saturday and will give them some confidence as they prepare for a big home matchup with Butler.

With the win, the Gators move to 7-4 on the year. Florida now welcomes the Bulldogs next Saturday for what will be the last game of the calendar year and looking towards the first game of the New Year and the start of the SEC league schedule.

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