Chris Chiozza pulled up to the right side of three-point line seven minutes into the second half and released a shot. As the ball fell through the basket to extend Florida’s lead to 15, a packed O’Connell Center erupted with cheers.
Behind Chiozza’s game-high 20 points, the No. 20 UF men’s basketball team defeated Baylor 81-60 on Saturday at the O’Connell Center in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“Chris Chiozza was amazing today,” coach Mike White said. “I can’t imagine he’s had a better game than that. I hope that he can play that well again.”
While Chiozza led the scoring effort, guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov tacked on 17 and 16 points, respectively. Koulechov shot 5-of-6 from the floor and went a perfect 3-of-3 from the three-point line, while Hudson made four shots from beyond the arc on six attempts.
Florida (15-6, 6-2 SEC) started the game on a 20-7 run following five three-pointers from Koulechov, Hudson and forward Keith Stone. The Gators stayed in control in the first half with tough defensive play, holding Baylor to 22 percent from the three-point line and forcing the Bears to work the ball inside. Baylor recorded 16 points in the paint in the first half.
Meanwhile, Florida kept up its three-point barrage as the half progressed, making 75 percent of its attempts in the first 20 minutes. Chiozza and Koulechov both made three shots from beyond the arc, helping the Gators reach a lead as large as 15.
“When we shoot the ball like that, it’s hard to beat us with the crowd going at home,” Koulechov said.
The second half was no different. While Florida didn’t shoot the ball as well as it did in the opening 20 minutes, the Gators overwhelmed the Bears (12-9, 2-6 Big 12) both on offense and defense.
UF maintained a steady lead at the beginning of the frame until Baylor forward Terry Maston scored six straight points to reduce the deficit to 10 points with 10:50 remaining.
Florida responded with a 14-2 run with six minutes left in the game to extend its advantage to 22 points. Hudson recorded 10 points off two three-pointers, a layup and a jump shot during the run.
On defense, center Kevarrius Hayes blocked five Baylor shots, while Hudson stole the ball three times. The Gators held the Bears to 40-percent shooting from the field, and 16.7 percent from the three-point line.
“It’s probably as good of a defensive performance as we’ve played against a very talented offensive team,” White said. “It was a great bounce-back game for us.”
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Chiozza shot 7 of 10 from the field, racked up six assists and only turned the ball over once. “I can’t imagine he’s had a better game than that," coach Mike White said.