January 29, 2016

On-the-fly offensive adjustments helped Baylor recover from a hiccup in Big 12 play, but a nonconference matchup against a stingy defensive team threatens to throw off its rhythm.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge already poses an obstacle while planted in the middle of the conference season, and No. 17 Baylor's flow might be tested when it meets visiting Georgia for the first time Saturday night.

An efficient offense that supplied the Bears five straight wins and a spot atop the Big 12 disappeared during last Saturday's 82-72 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma. Then, Baylor (16-4) was in danger of turning its only home defeat into its first losing streak when it trailed Oklahoma State by five at halftime Wednesday.

Baylor found its offense just in time, however, scoring 42 points in the second half of a 69-65 win to remain tied with the Sooners and West Virginia atop the conference with 6-2 records.

"We knew we weren't playing our best basketball," forward Rico Gathers told the team's official website. "We just knew we had to come out strong (in the second half)."

The Bears executed by going inside to the 6-foot-8 senior, who made three buckets in the first two minutes and scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime. Gathers, a preseason all-Big 12 selection, scored two points against Oklahoma and was held in single digits in three of the previous five games. Still, he's the only Big 12 player averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and 10.6 rebounds.

Despite a strong second half, Baylor shot 43.8 percent for its lowest mark since finishing at 39.0 in a 102-74 conference-opening loss at then-No. 2 Kansas on Jan. 2.

While the Bears are averaging a healthy 79.7 points, Georgia (11-7) surrenders 68.2. The Bulldogs have held opponents to 38.1 percent shooting, the 11th-best mark in the nation.

That number rose, however, following a second-half shootout in Tuesday's 89-85 loss at LSU. Georgia limited the Tigers to 38 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes, but they finished at 50.8 after outscoring the Bulldogs 56-55 after halftime.

LSU made just 6 of 19 shots from 3-point range, but four came within a three-minute period midway through the second half.

''We went to a couple of different defenses and we were going to give up some open 3-point shots," coach Mark Fox said. "To their credit, when they got an open 3, they made a couple.''

The Bulldogs nearly pulled off the upset despite Yante Maten fouling out with five points and three rebounds in 20 minutes. The sophomore forward leads Georgia with 7.7 rebounds per game and is second with 15.6 points, shy of only J.J. Frazier's 16.3. Frazier, a junior guard, has scored 26 points in each of the last two games.

Georgia is 1-16 against ranked teams since March 2012, including a 79-45 loss to Texas A&M on Jan. 16. The Bulldogs have won two true road games in 28 tries against Top 25 opponents since Jan. 24, 2004, and are 1-4 away from home this season.

Baylor is 12-1 in Waco this season and 62-2 in nonconference home games since the end of the 2008-09 campaign. Another victory would be Baylor's 34th straight nonconference home win and 27th in a row there against unranked opponents.

While the Bears are 7-1 against the SEC over the last four seasons, the Bulldogs are 4-7 versus the Big 12 since 1999.

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