UK, Baylor deliver game to remember
Wildcats outlast Lady Bears in highest scoring game in women's D-I history
The day before the Kentucky-Baylor women's basketball game, I was talking to a colleague about what we might see from these two undefeated teams. I was fearful of the worst. This is a mostly young and inexperienced Baylor team. Kentucky runs around like crazy, typically plays great defense, but doesn't always put the ball in the basket.
Plus, the game was in the cavernous AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas -- home of the Cowboys -- and venues like that sometimes can mess with shooters' depth perception. I was just hoping it wouldn't be a dreary, low-scoring affair.
So what happened? A "Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/X-Files" kind of game. I was worried there wouldn't be enough scoring? I might as well have been worried that Robinson Cano wasn't going to get enough money.
Kentucky 133, Baylor 130, four overtimes. And the number of people who looked at this score and said, "Holy (blank)!" That would be a lot more than 263, which as the combined score was the most points ever in a Division I women's hoops game.
This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.
The Wildcats and Lady Bears threw us media pundits an unhittable curve: How do you find the necessary hyperbole for a game that pretty much defies hyperbole? We're still shaking our head wondering how it happened.
Let's put it this way: Wouldn't it be way more believable if the game had ended 47-43? You know, a kind of a gross, gritty defensive battle? Instead, those numbers represented the point totals for Baylor's Odyssey Sims and Kentucky's Jennifer O'Neill. Yeah, that's right: a combined 90 points from two guards who both wear the jersey number "zero."
You truly could not make this stuff up.
Sims, a senior, is the lone returning starter from a Baylor squad that was No. 1 most of last season before a soul-crushing upset at the hands of Louisville in the Sweet 16. Sims was utterly inconsolable after that game. But her Baylor career was not over, even if it probably felt like it to her that painful night.
This proves it: Everything is bigger in Texas.
She still had this season left -- as did fellow seniors Makenzie Robertson and Mariah Chandler. They would be joined by a terrific five-member freshman class, plus Baylor had four sophomores returning. Sims was clearly going to be the superstar of a very different-looking Baylor team. We couldn't be sure how good that squad would be.
Friday gave us an idea, to say the least. Seven Baylor players fouled out -- including Sims in the first overtime -- and yet the Lady Bears were still an "almost" 3-pointer away from sending it to a fifth overtime. (At which point, I think the waiting men's teams from Baylor and Kentucky might have agreed to just let coaches Scott Drew and John Calipari "virtually" play the game on PlayStation.)
Instead, Kentucky's women got to celebrate another big victory, adding to their triumph over rival Louisville on Sunday. And Baylor fans may have been left saying, "OK, enough with these darn teams from the Bluegrass State; they are making us miserable!"
But, in reality, this wasn't a game that Baylor should feel any regret over. The Lady Bears found out how deep they could dig. Which was important, because there were more questions about Baylor going into this season than any other top program. How would they do without Brittney Griner and the other seniors who'd logged so many minutes the past four years? Would they be able to solidify a new identity by NCAA tournament time?
Friday's game gave this current group something that belongs to them. It has nothing to do with the past. It's a signature game for Baylor 2013-14, even if the Lady Bears didn't win it.
And what of Kentucky? The junior O'Neill put on a dazzling show that befits her Big Apple personality (she's from the Bronx). And she did so off the bench.
This is the fourth time this year that the Wildcats have topped the century mark in scoring. Coach Matthew Mitchell has been very outspoken in recent seasons about wanting the Wildcats to be more than a team that wins primarily with disruptive defense. He really wants them to have an offense that is fun to watch.
The Wildcats might walk away from this game thinking they probably should have put it away earlier. But they know that they didn't let up, either, and that they've learned something about themselves, too.
And for those of us watching … wow, it really did happen. Now it goes into the record books. We didn't know what kind of game it was going to be. We figured it could be entertaining. But 263 points of entertaining?
It's safe to say this unforgettable December gem was an early holiday present we were not expecting.
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