Kentucky, Baylor women on edge for rematch of December's 'instant classic'

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2014 


    Kentucky vs. Baylor

    What: Notre Dame Regional semifinal

    Where: Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.

    When: Noon

    TV: ESPN | Radio: WLAP-AM 630

    Records: No. 3 seed Kentucky 26-8, No. 2 seed Baylor 31-4

    Series: Tied 1-1

    Last meeting: Kentucky won 133-130 in four overtimes on Dec. 6, 2013, in Arlington, Texas

    At stake: Winner plays Notre Dame or Oklahoma State Monday


    Kentucky and Baylor put up some spectacular numbers during the Wildcats' 133-130 four-overtime victory on Dec. 6, 2013, in Arlington, Texas:

    263 — NCAA record for combined points scored by both teams

    130 — NCAA record for points scored by a losing team

    112 — NCAA record for free-throw attempts by both teams

    90 — Number of combined points scored by Baylor's Odyssey Sims and Kentucky's Jennifer O'Neill

    82 — NCAA record for free throws made by both teams

    43 — Points scored by O'Neill, breaking Kentucky's single-game record set by Valerie Still in 1982

    10 — Combined number of players to foul out (Baylor, seven; Kentucky, three)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — One day, when Matthew Mitchell is quite old, he'll probably tell his daughters' daughters about being a part of that instant classic with Baylor in Arlington, Texas.

He'll talk about the crazy ice storm and the four overtimes.

The Kentucky coach will go back and forth in his blue and white rocking chair and marvel about Odyssey Sims' 47 points against Kentucky and Jennifer O'Neill's school-record 43 points in response.

He'll point to NCAA record books and say he coached in the game that set a record for combined points (263) and number of free-throw attempts (112).

"There were so many offensive plays in the game that you couldn't believe," Mitchell said Friday. "It was an amazing thing to be a part of.

"It was a memorable night and a memorable game."

It's unlikely that the teams will be able to duplicate that 133-130 thriller at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 6.

But Mitchell would like to somehow duplicate the outcome as his 10th-ranked Cats prepare for a rematch with No. 5 Baylor on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This game, unlike that instant classic in December, means something.

"It's scary because somebody is going home tomorrow, and I know our kids don't want to go home and their players certainly don't," Mitchell said.

As far as game preparation, that game tape from early December serves little purpose. Both teams said they've come a long way since then.

Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey claimed she didn't even watch the tape (although her players later debunked that statement).

"I never thought the game would end and I was concerned I wouldn't have enough players to even finish the game," was Mulkey's only recollection of the evening, in which Sims fouled out in the first overtime and the Baylor coach was forced to play an injured player to keep five out on the floor.

The teams had 10 players foul out between them, including seven for the Bears, who have lost just three games since then.

"Hopefully all of the parts can remain on the floor and it will be another good game," Mulkey said.

Both teams would like to see far better defensive performances than they displayed in December in the game where only the final two overtimes were actually televised. The game was the undercard for the John Calipari created women's-men's doubleheader.

"They just ducked their heads and took it right at us," Sims said of the loss to UK, which scored 133 points despite making just six three-pointers. "We didn't really take as many charges as we should have."

The Cats, who have held their first two NCAA Tournament opponents to 22.9 percent and 33.3 percent shooting, are hoping for a better defensive showing against Baylor as well.

"We struggled defensively in that game as you could see," Mitchell said. "Giving up 90 points in regulation was tough. We've certainly tried to get better in ball-screen defense, and I think we are going to have to do a good job in this game."

Coaches and players on both sides pointed to rebounding and inside play as being key factors this go around. O'Neill predicted the Cats' DeNesha Stallworth, who was struggling with knee pain in that first game, could be a key.

She's averaged 14 points and 5.6 rebounds in five post-season games.

"That game, DeNesha didn't even really play that well, but I feel like she can be the X-factor in this game," said O'Neill, who was the X, Y and Z factor for UK last time. "It's going to be a totally different game."

Mulkey and her Bears wouldn't mind seeing it be another nail-biter. The Baylor coach just hopes the ending makes it one she'll want to watch this time.

"I think it will be entertaining, I think you'll see different styles but there are some similarities between the two teams," she said. "We both like to run; we both like to push it."

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

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