By Jeffrey Swindoll
The No. 8 Lady Bears picked up their first loss of the season after No. 11 Kentucky’s 50 points in the second half to overpower Baylor 74-64 Monday night in Lexington, Ky.
Last time the Lady Bears played Kentucky in the regular season, the game went to quadruple-overtime. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey took her team to the Elite Eight that year, beating that same Kentucky team in the Sweet 16. It’s a bit early for them to sound the alarms, but, just like last season, their performance against Kentucky revealed both the potential and detriment of this Lady Bears team.
Kentucky guards Jennifer O’Neill and Makayla Epps combined for 34 of their team’s 74 points, leading the Wildcats to a 14-point comeback victory over the Lady Bears. O’Neill scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half. Kentucky’s bench outscored Baylor’s bench 15-8.
Poor free throw shooting continued to pester the Lady Bears from their 101-60 victory against Oral Roberts last week. Over the span of the first two games in the regular season, Mulkey’s team is shooting under 64 percent from the foul line. The Lady Bears similarly struggled from the line in their two preseason exhibition games.
Free throw shooting is an evident issue with the Lady Bears in the early going this season and Mulkey is the first to admit that in the media pressers this season, saying her team has been “awful” and “terrible” from the line so far this season.
Mulkey said her team must take care of the basketball against Kentucky, meaning, the Lady Bears must limit their turnovers against the Wildcats if they plan to come out of Lexington with a win. The Lady Bears turned the ball over 24 times, three times as much as they did against Oral Roberts.
Baylor enjoyed sharing the ball and spreading the points across the lineup against Oral Roberts. All but one player scored in that game against the Golden Eagles, but it was a completely different story against the Wildcats on Monday.
Only seven members of the team scored points against Kentucky. The Lady Bears totaled just eight assists and made 20 of their 52 field goals in 40 minutes of play. Forced shots and lack of connectivity between the Lady Bears put them in a hole against Kentucky.
Sophomore forward Nina Davis earned her second straight double-double this season with 18 points and 13 rebounds, leading her team in both categories. Despite that, Davis was responsible for four Baylor turnovers and shot 6-for-16 against Kentucky and also shot 6-of-7 from the free throw line
Junior guard Niya Johnson’s underperformed in comparison to last week’s game against Oral Roberts. Johnson, the offensive playmaker of the team assist leader, crippled the Lady Bears with eight turnovers which was her highest statistic from Monday night. Johnson made just six points and completed three assists against Kentucky.
Second to Johnson in turnovers was freshman guard Kristy Wallace with five turnovers against Kentucky. All six of Wallace’s points came in the first half.
The Lady Bears led for most of the game in a hostile, away environment Monday night. It was in the final eight minutes that Kentucky took the lead for the first time since early in the first half. A bad night at the line and careless turnovers eventually came back to snare the Lady Bears.
Baylor returns to action at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 against Utah State at the Ferrell Center.