With six seconds left in regulation Wednesday, Jalen Hudson drained a 3-pointer to give the Gators a two-point lead over No.10-ranked LSU at the O’Connell Center.
Just moments earlier the senior wing had turned an LSU turnover into a fastbreak dunk to pull the Gators within a lone point of the Tigers, and it appeared as if UF would once again upset one of the SEC’s elite.
“I was just able to get it,” Hudson said, “take it full-court, and dunk it.”
Instead, Hudson’s best game of the season was all for naught as the Gators suffered a 79-78 defeat in overtime. Florida’s final play came apart at the seams; Hudson slipped, resulting in fellow senior KeVaughn Allen having just 1.8 seconds left to either hoist up a shot or drive to the rim. He chose the latter, and the buzzer sounded before Allen could begin to gather his shot.
“We fought. We definitely fought,” a solemn Hudson said. “I’m sad, man. I wished I could have left out of here on a win. For the other guys, too, especially them. They’ve been here four years. I just gave it all I had.”
In what has been a trying season for the transfer from Virginia Tech, Hudson said he didn’t expect to contribute a season-high 33 points coming into the game, but it came at a crucial time for the Gators. While senior Kevarrius Hayes did his part for the Gators — the Live Oak native contributed eight points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and three steals — Allen once again struggled from the field. As a result, Hudson took a career-high-tying 20 field-goal attempts against the Tigers. And Hudson’s shot was falling, too, and it showed in the second half. With Florida looking to stave off the opposition, Hudson would provide 18 consecutive points down the stretch.
“I don’t really feel like anything was different,” Hudson said. “Just more shots, a more volume of shots. More shots went in tonight, kind of got it going a little bit and Coach (Mike) White kept calling my number.”
After the game, the elephant in the room was hard to ignore: Hudson had finally turned in the type of performance that many, including his head coach, had expected out of him this season.
Instead of harping on Hudson’s prior shortcomings, White took the diplomatic approach.
“It’s about winning and losing, it’s about team success,” White said. “It does beg the question though. He got it going. He showed himself and all of us what he’s capable of.
“Unfortunately, we needed him to get 35.”
Hudson, too, chose to be a teamwork partisan instead of lamenting the past. With work still to be done for the Gators when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament, the senior understands there’s no time for retrospective regret — which includes Wednesday night’s hard-to-swallow loss to the Tigers.
“It’s a team sport. We had a lot of ups and downs. I just tried to give everything I had this whole year, really,” Hudson said. “It was a good performance, it’s only one performance. I’m just trying to stay consistent now. I feel like I’ve played well in the last month or two, so that’s all I’m really worried about. I can’t live in the past, I can’t worry about what other people think. I just try to do my best and leave it all out there.”
Who: Florida (17-13, 9-8 SEC) vs. No. 6 Kentucky (25-5, 14-3)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lexington, Ky.
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850