Baylor-Kentucky Instant Classic For Women's Game
Friday night's Top 25 showdown between UK Hoops and Baylor was not only one for the record books, but perhaps for the ages.
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.