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Records fall as O'Neill, UK take down No. 9 Baylor

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Jennifer O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points in UK's 133-130 win over Baylor on Friday night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Jennifer O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points in UK's 133-130 win over Baylor on Friday night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Reflecting on the game she had just played in and won, Jennifer O'Neill realized she lost track of time.

The top-10 matchup between Kentucky and Baylor lasted an astounding four overtimes, seemingly taking on a will of its own to delay the second half of a men's and women's doubleheader as long as possible.

Wrapped up intently in every one of the 60 minutes the Wildcats and Lady Bears played on Friday night in massive AT&T Stadium, O'Neill thought it lasted even longer than it did.

"I thought it was more overtimes than four, to be honest," O'Neill said. "I thought we were going to break the Syracuse record (of six overtimes against Connecticut in 2009)."

That record was about the only one that didn't fall in a game that's a massive early favorite to be the best of the year in women's college basketball.

O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points, joining all-time great Valerie Still as the only Wildcat to score 40 or more in a UK Hoops uniform. Given that she didn't know how many overtimes the game lasted, it should come as no surprise she didn't realize she had scored so many until taking a peek at the postgame box score.

"I didn't even know I had that many points, honestly," O'Neill said.

Her coach didn't either.

"You just had to make plays tonight and Jennifer was really, really hot," Matthew Mitchell said. "I do such a bad job; I don't realize what's going on in the game sometimes. I didn't realize she had 43. I knew she was doing a good job and we were trying to get her the ball, but it's an amazing performance. We needed all of them."

No. 5/6 Kentucky (9-0) needed all of them because Baylor star Odyssey Sims was matching O'Neill shot for shot and then some. Sims poured in 47 points, living up to every ounce of the pregame praise lumped on her by Mitchell, who called Sims "the best singular talent" in the country.

Even though she had 13 points and six rebounds of her own and often had the unenviable task of tailing Sims, Bria Goss couldn't help but marvel at the back and forth between the two top scorers.

"It just really makes me excited for women's basketball in general and for more people to get involved with women's basketball," Goss said. "I think, after today, we might have some bandwagoners or just more people in general watching women's basketball."

Sims played much of the evening saddled with foul trouble and finally picked up her fifth late in the first overtime period.

"I don't know that they have a meter that could measure my happiness when she got out of the game," Mitchell said. "The happy meter was broken at that point in time because we pride ourselves on being a pretty good defensive team that gets after and we just couldn't stop her."

Happy as he may have been, the Lady Bears weren't about to back down without Sims.

Imani Wright hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of that first overtime to prolong the proceedings. In the third extra session, No. 9 Baylor (8-1) seemed poised to take control when it grabbed a five-point lead. And in the final overtime, another potential game-tying 3 by Alexis Prince rattled out, finally giving UK its first back-to-back wins over top-10 teams in school history.

"The game was so long, you had time to play bad and you had time to play good," Mitchell said.

Though 10 players fouled out -- including seven for Baylor and six of the game's 10 starters -- there was much more good than bad. Impressive talent inside and out was on display and the result was an offensive explosion the likes of which the women's game has never seen.

"It's hard to put into words this game," Mitchell said. "It was a heck of a game."

UK and Baylor set an all-time NCAA record by scoring 263 combined points. The Cats topped the century mark for the fourth time in six games, breaking the single-game school record for most points in the process.

"Hopefully people see that we have a high level of skill and a high level of athleticism," Mitchell said. "I thought that was a real -- if you weren't coaching in it -- watching it was a real entertaining game tonight."

The talk of what UK-Baylor could do for the profile of women's college basketball is a testament to how good the game was, but Mitchell's more immediate concern is about his team. Barely a year removed from being dismantled by the Lady Bears in Waco, Texas, UK went toe-to-toe with the two-time national champions and came away with the win.

"I think we have a better team than we had last season and I'm really proud of the players," Mitchell said. "They worked extremely hard. They've practiced extremely hard for a long time. You could see the results of that just in their conditioning."

That conditioning translated directly into confidence. Other teams might deflated heading to the sideline with the score tied following yet another five minutes of overtime having elapsed, but not these Wildcats.

"We're in such good condition, every time we went into another overtime we were excited," Goss said. "Like, we get a whole 'nother five minutes. We do this. We're waking up four days a week 6 a.m. in the summer. This is what we train for. I think every time we walked over to the bench we just had this positive attitude."

That positivity turned into downright elation when the score finally went final. Since the preseason, the Cats have talked about this team being special. Getting the job done where there was every excuse not to is perhaps the clearest sign yet that they are ready to make that much more than idle chatter.

"Once the horn went off and we were going to the locker room, it was just like a big relief," said Goss, voice hoarse from reveling in the victory. "Like, this is the team, this is the year."

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