By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Sometimes, it's all about timing.
In 20th-ranked Florida's previous two games, the Gators had shot just 22.6 percent (12-of-53) from 3-point range.
But on Saturday, facing a mixture of Baylor's zone and man-to-man defense, Florida (15-6) buried 9-of-12 in the first half and shot 56 percent for the game (14-of-25) in rolling over the slumping Bears, 81-60, before a sellout crowd of 10,623 at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.
"You live by the 3, you die by the 3," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team dropped its third in a row and fifth in the last six games in falling to 12-9 overall. "The last couple games, they haven't knocked them down. We got them on the wrong night, because some of those 3's they hit were tough."
The disappointing thing, Drew said, is the Bears couldn't answer on the offensive end. Baylor was outscored 42-9 from 3-point range, hitting just 3-of-15.
"We had great looks early. I think we had four layups and two open 3's," Drew said. "At the end of the day, you've got to score. We can defend all we want, but we've got to score. They had too many players that are shooting 40-plus percent from 3, you're not going to keep them all from scoring. You've got to score. We had 3-on-1 breaks we didn't finish. We did some things better, but we didn't put the ball in the hole."
Comparatively, Florida guards Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov knocked down 6-of-8 3-pointers and scored 27 points in the first half alone, helping the Gators take a 43-31 lead into the break.
The Bears had whittled a 15-point deficit to single digits, when redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital hit a layup off a feed from Jake Lindsey to pull them back to within 40-31. But, after Kevarrius Hayes stole a lob pass from Tyson Jolly, the Gators regained the momentum with KeVaugh Allen's buzzer-beating 3 over 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil.
Drew said it's hard to explain the Bears missing so many layups and easies, but "that's what happens when you lose a couple games and you start to lose confidence. When you're winning, you make those plays. When you're losing, you don't."
"We're going to keep tinkering with things and messing with things until we can figure some things out," he said. "If we get good looks, they're going to go in at some point. We just need to keep getting good looks."
Terry Maston gave the Bears a boost off the bench, scoring 12 points in a row at one point and keeping them within striking distance at 58-48. But, Jalen Hudson hit a jumper and back-to-back 3-pointers in an answering 8-0 run that stretched Florida's lead back out to 66-48.
Jolly also had his most productive game for the Bears, hitting just his second 3-pointer and finishing with a career-high six points, a team-high seven rebounds, two steals and one assist in 22 minutes off the bench.
"I feel like I helped the team, but I obviously didn't do enough. We still lost," Jolly said. "I didn't get to play with them all preseason (because of a medical issue), so now it's just me getting back in the mix, trying to figure out my role, how I can help the team. And it's been difficult, but I think we're getting better and I'm figuring it out, slowly."
The redshirt freshman guard was 1-of-15 from outside the arc for the year before draining one in the final minutes of Saturday's game.
"I've been waiting to see one go through the basket," he said. "When I saw it go through, it felt really good."
Drew said it was also "good to see him get in the paint and create."
"Defensively, he gives you some length and athleticism. And he rebounds well - seven rebounds in 22 minutes."
Chiozza and Hudson both knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 20 and 17 points, respectively, while Koulechov had 16 and Allen 10 for the Gators. Maston had 14, Vital 11 and Lecomte 10 for the Bears, who go back on the road to face No. 11/12 Oklahoma (15-5, 5-3) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Norman.
"When you're trying to get confidence and you're trying to get on a streak, the doctor doesn't say go on the road and play a top-25 team," said Drew, who fell to 4-1 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and 7-2 overall in conference challenges. "But, that's where we're at and it's a great opportunity. So, we've got to keep fighting to get those opportunities. And when we get home, I know our crowd gives us a great chance to win each and every one of those games."