Baylor-Kentucky instant classic for women’s game

Baylor’s Kim Mulkey wasn’t sure where to begin.

Kentucky’s Matthew Mitchell figures the crowd waiting to watch

the men’s teams from both schools was at least entertained.

Both coaches agreed on one thing: Their four-overtime classic

that ended as the highest-scoring game in Division I women’s

history grabbed some headlines for their sport.

”Hopefully people see that we have a high level of skill and a

high level of athleticism,” Mitchell said after his fifth-ranked

Wildcats beat No. 9 Baylor 133-130 on Friday night. ”If you

weren’t coaching in it, and watching it, it was a real entertaining

game tonight.”

Mulkey is sure the fans agree. She’s just not sure how good the

new hand-check rule is for her game when Odyssey Sims was one of

seven Baylor players to foul out after she scored a career-high 47

points.

”Personally I can’t stand it,” Mulkey said after the teams

combined for 80 fouls – 47 by her team – and 112 free throws.

”Anybody that lets you shoot that many free throws, that’s not

basketball.”

Jennifer O’Neill scored a career-high 43 points, including the

go-ahead basket in the fourth overtime, as the Wildcats (9-0) won

consecutive games against top 10 opponents for the first time.

The previous high for a Division I women’s game was 252 points

in SMU’s 127-125 win over TCU, also in four overtimes, on Jan. 25,

1997.

”I don’t feel anything right now,” said O’Neill, who set a

school scoring record. ”I thought it was more overtimes to be

honest.”

The Bears (7-1) rallied from 12 down in the last 10 minutes of

regulation and had several chances to win even after Sims fouled

out with the Lady Bears down by two with 1:23 left in the first

overtime.

”I had a lot of faith in my team,” said Sims, who topped her

previous high of 37 points against Oklahoma her freshman year. ”We

did all we could right to the end.”

It almost was the second Division I women’s game to go five

overtimes. A series of missed free throws gave each team a chance

to extend the game throughout the extra periods, including the last

one.

O’Neill’s layup with 1:42 left in the fourth OT finally put

Kentucky ahead for good. She missed the second of two free throws

with a two-point lead with 6 seconds left but teammate Bria Goss

grabbed the rebound.

After Goss gave Baylor one more chance by missing the second of

her two free throws, a desperation 3-pointer by Baylor’s Alexis

Prince, who was playing for the first time this season, rimmed out

at the buzzer.

The end of the more than 3-hour game drew a standing ovation for

both teams from a crowd that grew in size and noise while awaiting

the men’s game that followed between No. 3 Kentucky and No. 20

Baylor at the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys and the site

of the men’s Final Four this season.

Sims fouled out on a charging call against O’Neill, who hit one

of two free throws after a technical following the call to put

Kentucky up 101-99.

”I don’t think that they have a meter that could measure my

happiness when (Sims) got out of the game,” said Kentucky coach

Matthew Mitchell, whose team got a congratulatory visit in the

locker room from men’s coach John Calipari before he took the floor

with his team. ”We just couldn’t stop her.”

The Wildcats were coming off a 69-64 victory over No. 7

Louisville, which ousted Brittney Griner and then-No. 1 Baylor in

the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last season.

Baylor won the only other meeting between the teams, 85-51 last

season in Waco, 100 miles south of the Cowboys’ home field. It was

just the third loss against 81 wins for the Lady Bears since the

2011 NCAA tournament.

Mackenzie Robertson, Mulkey’s daughter, matched her career high

with 23 points but missed an open layup that could have won it in

the final seconds of regulation.

”Our kids never missed a beat,” Mulkey said. ”They never

panicked. They just played.”

Janee Thompson scored 20 points for Kentucky, and DeNesha

Stallworth had 16 points and nine rebounds.

O’Neill, who more than doubled her previous career high of 21

against Marist last December, missed a free throw to open the door

for Imani Wright’s tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of the

first overtime.

Sune Agbuke did the same late in second OT for Baylor moments

after blocking a layup attempt by O’Neill. Down two, Kentucky sent

the game to a third overtime on a layup by Kastine Evans with 3

seconds left.

Thompson tied the third overtime with two free throws with 22

seconds left after the Wildcats missed three layups while down two

points in the final minute.