No. 8 Gators survive scare against New Hampshire

Florida guard Jalen Hudson shoots a jump shot over New Hampshire forward Tanner Leissner during the second half Sunday in the O'Connell Center. Florida won 70-63. (AP Photo/Ron Irby)

Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson summed up No. 8 Florida’s 70-63 win over New Hampshire as a learning experience.

“It’s kind of like a smack in the face,” Hudson said Sunday. “We are nowhere as good as we think we are. We are preseason 8 in the country and we’re not there yet. I’m kind of glad we had it now … I feel like this will be good for us.”

It was Hudson’s heroics that allowed the Gators to escape with the win, as the 6-foot-6 transfer guard from Virginia Tech scored 17 of UF’s final 22 points, including a driving layup with 1:41 left that put the Gators ahead 68-63. Then, after a key UF defensive stop, redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone hit a pair of clutch free throws with 43 seconds left to seal the win in the O’Connell Center.

After scoring over 100 points in back-to-back games to start the season for the first time in program history, the Gators (3-0) struggled offensively, shooting just 32.1 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent (3-18) from 3-point range. Hudson led three UF scorers with 26 points and seven rebounds, while grad transfer forward Egor Koulechov had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double for the Gators. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza, who battled foul trouble throughout the game, had 12 points, but no assists.

With the offense misfiring, Florida needed to rely on a defense that held New Hampshire to 36.1 percent from the floor. The Wildcats (1-2) hung around by shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, including a few banked-in 3s.  But Florida was able to get the stops it needed to down the stretch, limiting the Wildcats to just two points in the final 3:13.

“I thought we played as hard defensively over the course of 40 (minutes) as we’ve played,” Florida coach Mike White said.

But White felt the Gators at times lacked physical toughness underneath the basket, an area that will be a concern until senior center John Egbunu returns from rehabbing a torn ACL in January. New Hampshire senior forward Tanner Leissner burned Florida inside with some nifty shot fakes and up-and-under moves to finish with a team-high 23 points.

“We had a couple of wall ups there, one-on-one in the post, even one-on-two in the post, where we are there and we just got knocked off the basket because they’re a little bit tougher than us,” White said.

New Hampshire sold out defending the 3-point line early against a Gator team that entered Sunday night shooting 48.1 percent (26-54) from 3-point range. The strategy worked. The Gators tried to drive to the basket early but were unable to finish, going just 5 for 13 on layup attempts. It didn’t help that Chiozza got in early foul trouble and was forced to sit the final three minutes of the first half with two fouls. After building an eight-point first-half lead, Florida missed eight of its last nine shot attempts in the first half. UNH closed the half with a 12-4 run, which included a banked-in 3-pointer by sophomore guard John Ogwuche and a 3-pointer by junior guard Jordan Reed at the first half buzzer that tied the score at 32 at halftime.

“We’re a good defensive team and that’s what we’ve kind of built our program on,” New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion said. “I thought our kids did a great job carrying out the game plan and the scouting report.”

Florida, which came into the game averaging an NCAA best 25 assists, had just one assist in the first half and three for the game.

“Some of it, in my opinion was guys hunting a little bit, maybe a little too eager to try to score 100, to try to get mine,” White said. “I do think in my guys defense, we’ve been unbelievably unselfish. I’ll be anxious to look at the film.”

Chiozza scored UF’s first five points in the second half, but Florida was unable to put New Hampshire away. The Wildcats took a brief 49-48 lead on another banked-in 3-pointer from Ogwuche before Hudson got rolling. Hudson got a dunk in transition to put Florida back up 50-49, then got to the line and made a pair of free throws and then followed it up with a corner 3-pointer to put the Gators back up 55-51.

“I tried to stay aggressive the entire game,” Hudson said. “I didn’t want to get passive at all. It started coming to me later on in the game and my teammates started looking to me more. I thought we closed the game well.”

White said he was as pleased with Hudson’s seven rebounds as he was with the 26 points, which included several timely shots down the stretch.

“That just shows you his potential,” White said, “He’s as talented as anyone on our team.”

Up next

What: Phil Knight Invitational

Who: Florida vs. Stanford

When: 10 p.m. Thursday

Where: Portland, Oregon


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. Poor overall game, bad three point shooting and falling in love with it. Not very good at driving the ball, no post offense, and little post defense either. I hope coach was just allowing them to play through it. Saved by a bench player getting hot at the right time. We better improve fast or the next week will be painful.

    • Vulcan, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this game. They were bound to fall in love with the 3 after shooting 48% in the first two games. They came crashing back to reality and hopefully, learned a lesson. Hayes played well defensively blocking 5 shots and altering several others. To say they were saved by a bench player is true, but deceiving. Hudson averaged 21 minutes and 14 points in the first two games, so it’s not like they were bailed out by someone playing over his head. We should be happy to have another player who can carry the team when others are having an off night. We fans tend to get too excited by big wins and too discouraged by losses or wins that weren’t dominant enough to suit us. The next few games will be a good measuring stick to see where this team really is.

    • Agreed! 3 assists says it all! 4 guys outside the 3 point line on offense and one post player with very little movement and just one on one driving! That won’t work against the better teams and have never seen that from coach White before and he’s responsible for that offensive set. Need two post players for ball movement and rebounds. Very unimpressed with offense and hopefully a lesson for Coach too. Defense was very good.

  2. This is actually the best outcome because another 30pt win and the team may not have been humble enough to go into thanksgiving weekend with the right mindset. Great teams win on off nights and great teams have enough good players that one of them will always step up to bail them out on bad nights. Coach will have their attention this week as a result in a way that he wouldn’t have with another blowout. There won’t be too many nights that Allen, 3gor, and Chhese are all struggling. What does concern me is our bigs against a top tier team with more than one skilled big. We will struggle until Egnunu returns against teams with a strong back to the basket game. Go Gators!

  3. This is what happens to your offense when the other team plays good defense. Not a good sign since we are going to see some very good defense soon and often. Im sure they wil grow from this, the slap in the face should help the coach focus them in practice.