It was a thriller in Arlington at the AT&T Stadium despite the No. 9 Baylor Lady Bears falling to No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats 133-130 after four overtimes on Friday. This game proved that despite the loss of four starters from last year, Baylor is not going anywhere.
“I can tell you I learned a lot about my basketball team tonight,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “If that’s the fifth ranked team in the country, we’re alright because we can score with them, but we have to get better defensively.“
Senior guard Odyssey Sims scored a career-high 47 points, which is the second-highest single game total in school history for one game. Sims could have scored more, but fouled out with 1:23 remaining in the first overtime and the younger players were forced to step up.
Freshman forward Nina Davis finished with her second career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in addition to tying season highs with 11 rebounds and four assists. Senior guard Makenzie Robertson also gave the Lady Bears a spark offensively scoring 23 points, matching her career high.
“I don’t think I have ever been a part of four overtimes,” Mulkey said. “I thought that for a bunch of young ones they competed and played their rear ends off, and it was good to see because now they know how good they can be.”
Baylor played through adversity as seven Lady Bears fouled out, which Kentucky and junior point guard Jennifer O’Neill took advantage of. O’Neill set a Kentucky record 43-points for most points in a single game and four other players scored in double-digits.
“I thought Baylor really raised their level tonight and played with tremendous tenacity and you just had to make plays tonight, and Jennifer was really, really hot [shooting the ball],” Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I knew she was going well, but I didn’t know she had 43.”
The Wildcats started the game with a 5-0 run all of them coming from free throws as both teams struggled shooting in the first two minutes of the game. Sims made the first field goal of the game after getting the ball from sophomore guard Niya Johnson. The Bears were a bit sloppy and turned over the ball early as Kentucky tried to trap Baylor using its full court press. The Lady Bears came into the game averaging 11 turnovers a game, but committed 28 with nine of them being Kentucky steals.
Senior forward DeNesha Stallworth responded with a bucket, but Davis scores five unanswered points to give Baylor it’s first lead of the night. Both teams continued to go back and forth, but after back-to-back scores from Kentucky, the lady Bears trailed by five. Robertson responded with a 3-point jumper, but Baylor continued to trail the Wildcats for eight minutes. Baylor kept the game close, never allowing Kentucky to pull away. Baylor would respond and with 2:44 minutes left in the first half Sims made a jumper to give Baylor the lead. After a few possessions before the half, Kentucky and Baylor went to the locker room tied.
Kentucky came out in the second half with senior guard Kastine Evans hitting a 3-point jumper. Baylor responded with a 5-0 run, but Stallworth’s jumper tied the game. Sims’ back-to-back scores gave Baylor a slight lead, but freshman gaurd Makayla Epps’ 3-point jumper tied the game. Neither team was able to pull away or go on a big run until Kentucky began to chip away. After Kentucky led by 11, Mulkey took a timeout and Sims responded with a 3-point jumper after. Baylor became more aggressive defensively, but Kentucky continued to score. With 7:22 remaining in the second half, Sims took over and became more aggressive in the paint. After scoring 6 straight points, Baylor was within three. With 4:12 left in the second half, Sims made a free throw to give Baylor another lead. After a Kentucky free throw, Sims made two more free throws, but Kentucky made both free throws shortly after. With the game tied at 85, freshman guard Imani Wright hits a 3-pointer. Kentucky would respond and with the game tied at 90 Robertson had a chance for the game tying layup, but it didn’t go in.
“That one kind of hurt because I should have made it,” Robertson said. “I’m sure I’ll beat myself up over it, but I’ll work on it and get it.”
In the first overtime, both teams exchanged scores, but with 18 seconds left, Baylor was down three. Wright made a critical 3-point jumper sending the game into the second overtime. Both teams missed critical free throws. With 13 seconds left in the second overtime, junior post Sune Agbuke only made one of two free throws allowing Evans’ jumper to send the game into a third overtime. Baylor continued to play aggressive, jumping out on a 5-0 run, but Kentucky would come back to tie the game sending the game into its last overtime. Both teams were worn out and began to turn the ball over and miss free throws. With seven players out, Mulkey was forced to put in sophomore guard Alexis Prince, who has not played a game this season due to injury. Prince made the a jumper, but with five seconds left Kentucky junior guard Bria Goss made one of two free throws giving Baylor a chance to send it into the fifth overtime. Prince attempts a 3-point jumper, which goes halfway in, but pops out to end the game. Baylor kept up with the No. 5 team in the country, which allowed the Lady Bears to tell the nation they aren’t going anywhere despite it being a young team.
“They play hard. With the youth, we are going to be good, like Coach [Mulkey] said. We’ll come back and we’ll fix things but we will get better each game.” Sims said.
Both teams shot effectively with Kentucky shooting 41.9 percent from the field and Baylor shooting 42.9 percent. Kentucky made six 3-point jumpers, but for a team coming in having shot 60, Baylor defended the perimeter well.
The Lady Bears will try to rebound with a game against Houston Baptist at 2 p.m., Dec. 15, at the Ferrell Center.