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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – A double-digit halftime lead over Kentucky wasn’t enough to make Baylor coach Kim Mulkey comfortable, and her unease grew as the Lady Bears’ edge reached 14 points early in the second half.
She had good reason to feel nervous as the No. 13 Wildcats regrouped to do all those things her young team had done in building the lead. The No. 8 Lady Bears eventually wore down in a 74-64 loss that Mulkey saw coming long beforehand.
“We lost our momentum at the end of the first half,” Mulkey said. “We were playing with excitement and youth out there and I thought the difference out there was (the Wildcats’) composure, their poise and their leadership, senior and juniors did what you’re supposed to do when you’re behind and playing at home.
“They made got some good shots and got to the free-throw line in the second half. We didn’t respond, but we’ll get better.”
Baylor (1-1) shot 47 percent and outrebounded Kentucky 24-16 in taking a 34-24 lead at the break. The second half was a different story as the Lady Bears shot just 32 percent and were beaten 24-18 on the glass by the Wildcats.
“With about five minutes to go (in the first half) we were trying to break it open and we had a double-digit lead,” said Mulkey, whose team committed nine of its 24 turnovers in the second half. “We turned the ball over, missed a free throw and quit getting to the foul line in the second half. Experienced juniors and seniors extend that lead.”
“Everything was going our way, but we kept fighting ourselves.”
Baylor’s biggest problem was failing to contain Kentucky senior guard Jennifer O’Neill, who scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half to rally the Wildcats in a game that the Lady Bears seemed to control with that 14-point lead.
Nina Davis scored 18 points, Khadijah Cave added 17 and Imani Wright 10 for Baylor, which was outscored 11-0 over the final 2:28. Things were unraveling long before as the Lady Bears were committing turnovers that kept giving the Wildcats chances.
“I feel I could’ve done a little bit more to help my team,” said Davis, who was 6 of 16 from the field. “I missed a lot of easy shots that I usually make, but they’re things that I can correct.”
Makayla Epps added 12 points including four free throws in the final minute for Kentucky, which overcame a 40-26 lead with a 21-7 run to tie the game. Kentucky then made clutch plays and free throws down the stretch to forge a 2-2 tie in what has been an entertaining series to say the least.
Monday’s meeting at Rupp Arena was the third between the schools in the past year and came nearly a year after Kentucky beat Baylor 133-130 in an epic four-overtime matchup in Arlington, Texas. The Lady Bears won the rematch 90-72 in last spring’s Sweet 16, but that December contest remains memorable for setting an NCAA record for combined points.
That game was also notable for being played before a sparse crowd at the Dallas Cowboys’ massive stadium because of an ice storm that shut down the region. Kentucky fans were only slightly deterred by Monday’s wintry weather, but the conditions kept last year’s attendance record of 23,706 intact with an announced crowd of 22,075 that won’t soon forget the Wildcats’ remarkable rally.
Baylor: The Lady Bears fell to 7-2 in Monday night ESPN games. … Post player Sune Agbuke went to the bench following a first-half collision with Kentucky’s Bria Goss but returned for the second half. … Monday’s loss kept Baylor at 799 wins.
Kentucky: O’Neill became Kentucky’s 30th player to surpass 1,000 career points when she made three free throws early in the second half.
Baylor: Hosts Utah State on Nov. 28.
Kentucky: Hosts Morehead State on Wednesday.
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