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Florida 77, FGCU 56: Gators rain threes to ring in holidays, wring out Eagles

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Florida got its fans — and maybe its coach — a sigh of relief for Christmas.

St. Bonaventure v Florida Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Florida Gators had not made a foe look foolish for the better part of month.

On Saturday in Sunrise, they did, throttling Florida Gulf Coast 77-5X in the Orange Bowl Classic and getting their offense in gear enough to think hopefully about the near and far future for this team.

The three was, as might have been suspected, integral to that effort. The Gators dropped 11 threes in the game, nine of them in the first half — and got four of them from Jalen Hudson, who scored a season-high 14 points off the bench and looked as effective and engaged as he has as a senior.

Hudson did not lead the Gators in scoring — Noah Locke, who had 15 points on his second straight game with five threes, did that. But he was one of six Gators who stepped up to score at least eight points on another middling night from Andrew Nembhard (zero points, four assists, three turnovers), who sat with two fouls for a long stretch in the first half.

That stretch coincided with a 14-3 run by the Eagles that shortened a Florida lead from 23-8 to 26-22. Florida responded at the end of the half, though, and went into halftime up 37-26.

Early in the second half, the Gators took off, compiling a 21-6 run over seven minutes that was capped by a Hudson three. Suffocating defense that helped force 22 FGCU turnovers and limited the sweet-shooting Eagles to just two threes on 14 attempts had a lot to do with that — but Mike White getting just his second technical foul as Florida’s head coach might not have hurt.

White was whistled for the technical with the Gators up 18 and playing well, with the call baffling observers and announcers alike. But his team would play even better after that juncture, pushing its lead to as many as 29 points late in the second frame before a late run by the Eagles shaved a few possessions off of it in the final two minutes.

This sort of performance, one that Florida has not been able to put together since prior to its trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November, is a reminder of how good these Gators can be when their shots fall and their defense stays stout.

With no games left on their schedule against teams outside of major conferences, playing this well on a regular basis would be a good idea, if possible.