GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — MaCio Teague and Devonte Bandoo scored 16 points apiece and No. 1 Baylor extended its winning steak to 16 with a 72-61 victory over Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday night.
The Bears improved to 6-1 in the annual inter-conference series — the best record of any team in either conference — and themselves another week atop The Associated Press poll.
Baylor also gave the Big 12 an even split (5-5) in the daylong series.
The Bears (17-1) overcame an eight-point deficit early and led by 19 points in the second half before Florida mounted a minor rally. The Gators (12-7) had a chance to make it a single-digit game with a little more than 7 minutes to play, but they missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-ones. Kerry Blackshear Jr. misfired twice on back-to-back possessions and then Noah Locke did the same seconds later.
What could have been an eight-point game was still a comfortable lead for the Bears.
Florida eventually managed to whittle Baylor’s lead to 10 on Andrew Nembhard’s driving layup with 2:40 remaining. But the Bears answered on the other end thanks to their 13th offensive rebound, which led to two free throws for Bandoo.
Davion Mitchell finished with 11 points and six assists for Baylor, which was a slight underdog entering the game. Jared Butler chipped in 10 points.
Baylor’s length, athleticism and defensive prowess posed problems all night for Florida, which shot 44% from the field and 23.5% from 3-point range.
The Gators fell to 2-17 against the No. 1 team, including 10 consecutive losses.
Keyontae Johnson led Florida with 20 points. Nembhard added 16 points and eight assists, but he missed more shots (8) than he made (6), including all four 3-pointers. The Gators missed 13 of 17 from behind the arc.
Baylor took control of the game with a 13-2 run to close the first half, turning a tie game into a double-digit lead. The Bears hit six 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes — twice as many as Florida — and had seven offensive rebounds.
They got help from an unlikely source. Bandoo, who averages 7.5 points off the benched, scored 11 in the opening half on 4 of 6 shooting.
Baylor: The Bears matched their best 18-game start in school history. They also started 17-1 in 2011-12 and 2016-17. They landed No. 3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament after those regular seasons and were eliminated both times by SEC teams (Kentucky in ’12, South Carolina in ‘17).
Florida: The Gators appeared to be taking strides while beating then-No. 4 Auburn last Saturday and nearly stunning LSU on the road earlier this week. But the team’s offensive woes returned against Baylor — no surprise given the Bears are one of the best defenses in the nation.
Florida forward Dontay Bassett missed his second consecutive game with a calf injury. Bassett averages 1.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.
Baylor: Returns to Big 12 action and plays at Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Bears have won three of the last four in the series, but lost to the Cyclones in the conference tournament last March.
Florida: Returns to SEC play and hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday night. The Gators lost to the Bulldogs last year to end an eight-game winning streak in the series.
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