UK women's game was one for the highlight reels and the record books

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 7, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jennifer O'Neill (0) went in over Baylor Bears guard Makenzie Robertson (14) and scored two of her career high 40 points as Kentucky defeated Baylor 133-130 in four overtimes on Friday December 6, 2013. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

  • NEXT GAME

    Kentucky at DePaul

    When: 7 p.m. Thursday

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jennifer O'Neill saw herself on SportsCenter and laughed.

Before lunch on Saturday, less than 12 hours after she'd walked off the court at AT&T Stadium a winner in a four-overtime instant classic that was No. 5 Kentucky over No. 9 Baylor, O'Neill seemed ready to go out there again.

"I probably could play again after an ice bath or something like that," O'Neill said. "My legs are perfectly fine."

That seems almost impossible given that Kentucky's junior guard played 46 minutes in the 133-130 victory that saw 22 ties and 22 lead changes with the Bears.

O'Neill scored 43 points in that span, besting the previous school record of 42 points set 31 years ago by UK great Valerie Still.

"It still hasn't hit me," O'Neill said of the win, in which she had six assists and just one turnover. "More than anything, I'm happy we got the win. It took four overtimes, but it was worth it."

O'Neill, who comes off the UK bench despite starting last season, is a quiet, reluctant star. She hadn't scored more than 21 points in a game until the first game of that doubleheader in icy Texas.

After the big win, UK was the lead story on ESPN's SportsCenter for much of the night. UK Coach Matthew Mitchell had more than 146 text messages waiting for him after the win.

"Pretty cool reaction from everybody," he said on Saturday night. "It was an incredible game. Just sort of snowballed. When they put the overtimes on the network, it got it to a lot of people that might not have been aware of it."

It was a great game for the sport of women's basketball.

"Even my bus driver was saying it was one of the greatest basketball games he'd ever seen, and he was a fan of women's basketball now," Mitchell said.

O'Neill and six of her teammates watched replays on ESPN Saturday morning. "Women's basketball doesn't usually make it on ESPN like that, so it was kind of a shocker," she said.

The junior guard got more than 30 messages congratulating her on the victory, which was only partially televised at the end as ESPN waited to show the men's game against Baylor after that.

The Bronx, N.Y., native had no idea that she was anywhere close 40 points.

"I knew I was scoring, but I really didn't pay attention to how many points I had," she said. "I was too busy looking at the scoreboard to see what I needed to do to get my team up, get a lead, a little bit of cushion."

O'Neill was busy doing other things, too, like calming down her head coach after he got a technical foul for disputing a call as UK was clinging to an 84-83 lead with three minutes to play in regulation.

"She'd been waiting four years to get on me like that," Mitchell said. "She was all over me saying, 'We don't need that. We're trying to win the game.' I was so upset with myself that I didn't even say anything to her. I just took it. She was right. We didn't need it."

But what they got was a big game from O'Neill, who may have taken steps forward in the leadership department. It's been something Mitchell has been stressing to his guard since she arrived on campus as Kentucky's first ever McDonald's All-American.

He heard O'Neill's teammates applauding that leadership more than her 43 points after the game.

"I commended Jen ... for taking strides in the locker room and for being a leader, not just in scoring, but her being a vocal leader," junior guard Bria Goss said.

After the win, Mitchell also applauded Goss and senior Kastine Evans, who played all but nine of the 60 minutes of the game. Goss played 49 minutes.

The guards were key down the stretch.

"Kastine and Bria were unbelievable in the extra periods," he said. "You just had to go with experience there."

Numbers and notes

The game was one for the ages, and one for the record books, with UK's 133 points blasting their previous high for points scored in a game (121) set back in 1989.

 UK's free throws made (49) and attempted (66) both set new school records.

 Kentucky is averaging 98.8 points a game. It's still early in the season, but the program's highest scoring average in a season was 83.5 set in 1979-80.

 UK has eclipsed 100 points in four of nine games this season. The program is 43-0 when scoring 100-plus and 11-0 under Mitchell.


NEXT GAME

Kentucky at DePaul

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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