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No. 13 Baylor Holds off Florida 95-91

Dennis had a half for the ages to power the Bears to a 6-0 start to the season

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off Championship Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears (6-0) rode the hot hand of RayJ Dennis to a 95-91 victory over the Florida Gators (4-2).

Dennis led the Bears with 24 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals. Jalen Bridges dropped 23 on a phenomenal shooting performance, going 5-7 from deep and 6-6 from the free throw line.

Riley Kugel led all scorers with 25 points as backcourt partners Walter Clayton Jr. and Zyon Pullin poured in 28 combined. Baylor’s defense held down Florida’s efficiency, though, as Kugel and Clayton were a combined 13-32 from the floor.

This game featured runs from both teams as the lead bounced back and fourth. In the second half, Baylor’s defense was able to hold down the Gators just enough, never letting Florida retake the lead for the final 18 minutes of the game. It got close throughout as Florida’s scorers kept finding lanes in transition or just enough space for a big three.

But Dennis always had the answer, creeping his way into the paint for a clutch fadeaway or smooth finishes off the glass. And when it wasn’t him, it was on of his teammates raining fire from the rafters of Barclays Center. The Bears were 14-25 from three, with even Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua putting one in from the top of the key.

This game really showcased the depth that Baylor has at multiple positions. Both star freshman Ja’Kobe Walter and Yves Missi were forced to the bench early in the second half with foul trouble. The depth on the wing and at center on a night when Tchamwa Tchatchoua was available meant the Bears didn’t miss a beat. Langston Love scored 16 points and was the fourth Bear in double-digits alongside Walter’s 11.

Baylor has now won an impressive 5 of its last 6 regular season tournaments under Scott Drew, is still among the undefeateds, and will face down two more formidable teams in Michigan State and Duke. Drew doesn’t shy away from testing his team early to prepare for the Big 12 grind.

This team looks more and more up to the task.