Gators torch Bears in Big 12/SEC Challenge

Florida guard Chris Chiozza (11) dribbles against the tight defense of Baylor guard Manu Lecomte (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. Photo Credit: Associated Press

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor men’s basketball surrendered its perfect record in the Big 12/SEC challenge with a 81-60 loss to No. 20 Florida Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

The Bears (12-9, 2-6) fell victim to the hot-shooting Gators (15-6, 6-2), who shot 9-for-12 from three-point range in the first half and ended the game with 14 total made threes.

Florida senior guard Chris Chiozza scored a game-high 20 points including four threes while senior forward Terry Maston led the Bears with 14 points.

Florida senior guard Egor Koulechov scorched the nets early with three threes to push the Gators to a 14-5 lead at the first media timeout.

Junior guard Jake Lindsey drove the lane and found freshman forward Tristan Clark under the basket for the and-one to cut the lead to 20-10 at the 13:11 mark of the first half.

After the under-12 timeout, the Bears switched to a 1-3-1 zone in an attempt to slow down the Florida offense. Chiozza wasn’t shy launching three-pointers outside the Baylor zone, draining two from long range to make it a 30-17 game with 8:28 remaining in the half.

Baylor senior guard Manu Lecomte knocked down his first three of the night to cut the lead to 10, but Chiozza responded with back-to-back jumpers as the Gators took a 37-24 lead at the 3:24 mark of the first half.

The Bears made a late push in the first half with Lindsey finding freshman forward Mark Vital on a backdoor cut to the lead to 40-31, but Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson drained a contested three at the buzzer as the Gators took a 43-31 lead into the break.

The Bears and Gators battled back-and-forth early in the second half, with Maston cleaning up a Lecomte miss to make it a 49-38 game at the 15:56 mark.

Florida extended their lead on threes from Hudson and Chiozza, but Maston scored 12 straight points for the Bears to cut the lead to 60-48 with ten minutes left.

A 14-2 run by Florida pushed the lead to 12 and out of reach for the Bears.

Baylor had previously been 4-0 in the challenge, with wins over Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Ole Miss.

The Bears return to conference action as they face No. 12 Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Norman, Okla.