WINTER PARK, Fla. -- After playing what Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said "might have been the worst half of basketball I've ever coached," the Bears found a way to make her 500th game a successful one.
Nina Davis had 26 points and 17 rebounds and Niya Johnson hit the go-head basket with a minute remaining as the ninth-ranked Bears beat No. 19 Syracuse 74-72 on Friday night in the Florida Sunshine Classic at Rollins College.
The Orange had the ball with 16.1 seconds remaining with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Baylor defense swarmed Syracuse guard Brianna Butler, forcing a driving shot by Alexis Peterson that fell off the rim, giving Baylor (9-1) its eighth straight victory.
Baylor committed 19 turnovers in the first half, but only six in the second as it was able to hold off a Syracuse team led by Diamond Henderson and Briana Day.
"You don't win many games when you have turnovers like that," Mulkey said. "Do you expect it when you have such a young team? Absolutely. But not that many. ... Consequently, the second half might have been the toughest team that I've probably watched on the floor because they refused to lose. They never quit playing hard."
Not only did Baylor do a better job of taking care of the ball in the second half, the Bears also attacked Syracuse defense, working the ball inside to Khadjiah Cave (13 points) and Sune Abbuke (nine points). Imani Wright scored nine of her 12 points in the second half.
Syracuse, meanwhile, got 27 points from Henderson, who also hit five of her seven 3-point shots. Day had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Butler finished with 16 points, but struggled to get her shot going all night.
Still, the Orange had a chance to send it into overtime or take the lead in the final moments.
"We got exactly what we wanted," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "We just came up short."
Baylor: The Bears ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring margin with a +36 coming into Friday night's game, but really had to work to get past Syracuse.
Syracuse: The Orange are now 10-45 against top 25 competition under coach Quintin Hillman. The team's last win against a top 25 team came on Jan. 30, 2014 against No. 6 North Carolina.
Baylor: The 17 rebounds were a career high for Davis, nearly 10 more than her season average.
"We just had an attitude that we weren't going to lose," Davis said. "We had to grind from the beginning to the end and my team did that."
Syracuse: Butler, who owns the school's single-season record with 100 3-pointers, was just 4-for-16 from behind the arc Friday night, but that didn't stop her from taking a couple of late 3-pointers, which she missed.
"At any point in the game when I shoot the ball, I shoot with confidence and feel if everything's going in," Butler said. ". They just didn't fall today."
Mulkey, who has spent her entire 15-year career at Baylor, is 413-87.
"Not many coaches get to coach that many games at one institution," she said. "I'm very blessed."
Baylor faces Michigan State in Winter Park on Saturday.
Syracuse faces Michigan State in Winter Park on Sunday.