GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Mike White couldn’t recall ever seeing guard Jalen Hudson play as hard.
Not in practice. Not in a game. Maybe not in his Virginia Tech days.
Hudson scored 18 points, highlighted by a crucial, three-point play with 1:15 remaining, and the Gators beat LSU 73-64 to end a three-game losing streak in Southeastern Conference play Wednesday night.
“I was proud of his effort,” White said.
Hudson added nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in 34 minutes. He was at his best down the stretch, scoring eight of the team’s final 13 points. He made a jumper, a 3-pointer and then the driving layup on which he got fouled.
“It was just energy for us,” said Hudson, a junior who sat out last season after transferring. “We were trying to play with energy, fire. … We don’t want to celebrate this. We want to keep our edge, keep the fire we’re playing with.”
Keith Stone chipped in 15 points for the Gators, who played considerably better than they did in an 18-point loss to Alabama four days earlier.
Florida (16-8, 7-4 SEC) got back on defense, had improved ball movement and shot selection, and even outscored the Tigers (13-10, 4-8) in the paint. The Gators looked much more like the ranked team that won eight of nine last month than the one that dropped four of its previous seven.
“I think if we play that hard and that together every night, we’ll have a chance every night,” White said. “If we don’t, there might be a couple we can win without that. But you’ve got a chance to get your brains beat in the way this league is. We just looked like more of a mature, connected group.”
Of course, it came against an LSU team that has dropped six of eight and four straight on the road.
The Tigers turned the ball over 16 times, which led to 21 points.
“What killed us were the turnovers,” coach Will Wade said. “That’s where we lost the game.”
The Tigers were coming off a 94-point effort against Arkansas and were up 33-31 at halftime. But Florida, which White felt wore down in the second half in its last two losses, responded with some life after the break. White played guys off the bench more minutes than usual in hopes of saving the legs of starters Chris Chiozza, Hudson, Stone and Egor Koulechov.
Florida shot 57 percent in the second half and hit four of the team’s six 3-pointers.
Koulechov finished with 12 points, and backup guard Mike Okauru chipped in nine off the bench.
Florida took over down the stretch, scoring 12 of the game’s final 15 points after being down 61-60 with a little more than 5 minutes to play.
Brandon Sampson led LSU with 17 points thanks mostly to four 3-pointers. Leading scorer Tremont Waters had nine points on 3-of-15 shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range. Wade jumped Waters during a timeout early in the second half.
“I just thought he wasn’t playing his best,” Wade said. “He responded well. When you get on him, he responds.”
LSU: The Tigers need Waters to play better to have a chance. The dynamic freshman showed flashes of play-making ability, but his seven turnovers stuck out as much as his seven rebounds and six assists.
“It’s a lot of pressure on a freshman,” Wade said. “He’s handled it extremely, extremely well. Tonight, he ran into a senior guard in Chiozza.”
Florida: White went 11 games without taking off his sports coat. He did it early in the game against LSU and might not go back to the buttoned-up look again. White said former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has been telling him for weeks to ditch the jacket.
LSU: Hosts Mississippi on Saturday. The Rebels have dropped four in a row and six of seven.
Florida: Plays at South Carolina on Saturday. The Gamecocks are 0-4 since winning in Gainesville last month.
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