By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
No. 1 Baylor defeated unranked Floriday 72-61 Saturday in Gainsville, Fla. in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The two conferences tied 5-5 for the second time in the past seven years.
After gaining a large lead by the second half, the Bears’ free throw shooting allowed them to hold on as they shot 15-16 from the line. The Gators shot 11-16 at the line and missed all three of the front ends of their bonus shots.
Baylor was down 17-9 early as the Bears struggled to make shots. Down eight with 13 minutes left in the first half, the offense erupted. Baylor took the lead and strengthened it over the second portion of the first half as they took off on a 31-12 run.
The Bears got to the break with a 40-29 lead and huge game in the works for senior Devonte Bandoo (11 points) off the bench and redshirt junior MaCio Teague (10). The two guards combined for 8-13 from the field, including 4-7 from deep. Bandoo also had two rebounds at the half while Teague had two assists.
Sophomore guard Jared Butler also had a solid first-20, scoring eight points in just seven minutes as he struggled through foul trouble. Redshirt sophomore guard Davion Mitchell had a great passing half with six rebounds, while redshirt senior forward Freddie Gillespie gained seven points and four rebounds, and junior forward Mark Vital added six rebounds to the mix.
The Bears continued their hot streak into the second half, stretching the lead to as many as 19 and holding it to at least 16 until the 4:03 mark. Then Florida started their comeback.
The Gators came back hard, dropping the lead to 10 with 120 seconds left, but their mistakes at the line hindered their ability to make any progress further than that. Kerry Blackshear, Florida’s star graduate transfer, scored just nine points and shot 3-6 at the free-throw stripe.
Teague and Bandoo each finished with a team-high 16 points after quiet second halves, but Teague grabbed six total rebounds and Bandoo notched four. Mitchell helped to ice the game shooting 7-8 from the line and Vital also earned a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Bears dominated the boards Saturday, including 11 more total rebounds and five more on the offensive end. They also shot it better from deep over the Gators, as Florida shot 4-17 from behind the arc while the Green and Gold finished a hot 9-19.
Baylor will continue their road trip at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Ames, Iowa against unranked Iowa State. The game will air on either ESPN2 or ESPNU and will be available on the ESPN app.