SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball.
Neither coach expects another four-overtime thriller Saturday in the Sweet 16. Still, both are looking forward to another entertaining matchup with a berth in the regional finals on the line.
“It was one of those that doesn’t have a big bearing (on Saturday),” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “But when the season’s done and you’re looking back at certain moments in time and fun things to celebrate in the season, obviously it’s the highest scoring game of all time and it garnered a lot of national attention.”
Mitchell knows for his team to win again, the Wildcats must slow Baylor star guard Odyssey Sims. Or at least hold her to an “average” game.
“She’s a difficult matchup and doing a great job of not only scoring but finding her teammates,” Mitchell said.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey jokes that she hasn’t watched tape of the 133-130 defeat because, “Who wants to look at a loss?” Still, she has faith that the mistakes are fixable.
“We’ll correct what we didn’t do right the first time in Arlington,” Mulkey said. “They were a great team, still are. We’re looking forward to the rematch, but I think we will come out with a little more sense of urgency and get on them a little more than we did.”
The winner game will face Notre Dame or Oklahoma State in the regional final Monday night.
Five things to know about the Baylor-Kentucky game:
SCORING RECORD: Sims, averaging 28.5 points and second nationally, is 66 points short of Jackie Stiles’ record for points in a season. Stiles scored 1,062 points as a senior at Missouri State in 2000-01. Sims has improved her scoring by 15.6 points this season which is the most by a player since 1999 according to STATS.
STELLAR FRESHMAN: Nina Davis wasn’t the most heralded freshman coming into the season, yet she’s been the most indispensable for Baylor this year. Davis is averaging 15.1 points and 8.9 rebounds and has been a steady force in the middle despite being just 5-foot-11.
“She’s worked her way into the lineup and just developed into a player that quietly does her job,” Mulkey said. “When it’s over she’ll have a double-double every night. I’m amazed at the year she’s had because she has a quiet personality. She’s a competitor and gets extremely competitive when the game’s on the line.”
BACK IN THE SWEET 16: With the loss of Brittney Griner and five other seniors, Baylor was expected to take a step back this season. Yet the Lady Bears won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles and are back in the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight season. Now they hope to go further than last season when Baylor was stunned by Louisville in the regional semifinals.
“With this team being so young, no one expected us being where we are,” Sims said. “We handled it very well, got back to where we were and it’s in our hands to go a little bit further than we did last year.”
WHISTLEFEST: In the first meeting there were 80 fouls. The teams combined to shoot 112 free throws and 10 players fouled out. Every starter on Baylor except for Mackenzie Robertson fouled out.
Robertson expects a different scenario Saturday.
“I don’t think 80 something fouls are going to be called,” Kentucky junior Bria Goss said. “It’s going to be a great game to watch, it’s going to be real physical.”
BELIEVING IN BASKETBALL: When he first got the Kentucky job, Mitchell knew things were different. He had a clue when he got stuck in traffic before a men’s exhibition game.
“The men’s basketball situation is really nuts,” he said. “The whole state comes together almost like a religious experience, like they are worshipping in the same church for a few hours.”
The men’s team is playing a few hours down US-31 in Indianapolis against Louisville in the regional semifinals Friday night.
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