WACO (AP) — Rico Gathers doesn’t really care if it’s the Big 12/SEC Challenge or just another challenging game in his difficult conference. The burly Baylor forward will throw his body around either way.
Gathers had 17 points and nine rebounds, and the No. 17 Bears used a quick start to the second half to beat Georgia 83-73 in a break from the Big 12 on Saturday night, two days before what should be another home sellout in a showdown with rival Texas.
“It’s really no different,” said Gathers, the league’s active leader with 31 career double-doubles. “As long as there’s a team out there to go play on whichever night it is, we just prepare the same.”
Gathers had one of Baylor’s five three-point possessions during a 17-2 run in the first 4 minutes after halftime to turn a 35-32 deficit into a 49-37 lead. The Bears (17-4) scored just three points before the first media timeout in the first half.
Ishmail Wainright hit a tying 3-pointer 12 seconds into the second half, and Al Freeman put Baylor ahead for good with another in the Bears’ 34th consecutive home win against a nonconference opponent. It was the first meeting between the schools.
J.J. Frazier had 21 points and 11 assists to lead the Bulldogs (11-8), who lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
“Our defense is going to have to improve for us to accomplish anything,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “Our defense let us down at a key point in the second half here tonight. I thought it did that the game before as well.”
After Frazier scored five straight points in the final minute of the first half to break a 30-all tie, Lester Medford set the tone for Baylor’s early second-half spurt by picking up the ball near midcourt with 5.1 seconds left and racing to the basket for a layup just before the buzzer.
Freeman had two 3-pointers during the run and scored all 14 of his points after halftime. Taurean Prince joined Gathers with a three-point play.
The sixth three-point conversion in the first 7 minutes of the second half — a layup and free throw by Johnathan Motley — pushed the Baylor run to 26-6 for a 56-41 lead, starting with Medford’s layup to finish the first half.
“It just clicked,” Gathers said. “I think our guards did a good job of getting the ball inside and just getting the big men going. Whenever you play ball like that, it opens up for the outside. That’s what enabled our shooters to hit the big shots that put us ahead.”
Prince scored 13 points, Motley added 12 and Medford had nine points and eight assists as the Bears improved to 8-1 against the SEC since the 2012-13 season.
It was the 16th win in 17 home games for Baylor, the only loss coming to No. 1 Oklahoma last weekend. The Bears are tied atop the Big 12 with Oklahoma and West Virginia at 6-2.
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent and led most of the way before halftime, but missed 10 of their first 12 attempts as the Bears took control on their way to a 3-0 record in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
All of Georgia’s four double-figure scorers reached the mark against Baylor, with Yante Maten getting 18 points followed by Kenny Gaines (14) and Charles Mann (13). But the Bulldogs were outscored 26-7 off the bench by the deeper Bears. Motley led Baylor’s reserves in scoring.
Baylor coach Scott Drew once again had a raspy voice during his postgame interview, just as he did after the loss to the Sooners. He said he has cervical disk issues that will require surgery, and the medication is affecting his voice. “I was good until the last 6 minutes,” Drew said before turning things over to Gathers and Motley for questions.
“I’ve got throat coat, I’ve got lozenges, I’ve got spray bottles,” Drew said later. “I mean, I’m not an idiot. I’m trying.”
Georgia: Frazier’s double-double in points and assists was the first for the Bulldogs since Dec. 19, 2007, when Mike Mercer did it against Jacksonville. … Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are the remaining Big 12 teams the Bulldogs haven’t faced. … Georgia fell to 12-13 against the Big 12.
Baylor: Prince was honored before the game for becoming the school’s 30th 1,000-point scorer. He reached the milestone Jan. 9 at Iowa State. … The Baylor football team took the Russell Athletic Bowl trophy to midcourt for a halftime celebration, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
Georgia: Hosts South Carolina on Tuesday.
Baylor: Hosts Texas on Monday.
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)