When the NCAA mandated stricter officiating this season, a primary hope was creating more offense.
Nobody in their wildest dreams could’ve imagined Kentucky’s 133-130 four-overtime epic women’s basketball victory over Baylor Friday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game upstaged the Kentucky-Baylor men’s game that followed and shoehorned its way into the national conversation Saturday morning, amid the previews for college football conference championship games.
Several Tennessee women’s players joined the social media conversation about the game.
“You cnt say that the 4OT UK vs. BU wasn’t great,” forward Bashaara Graves tweeted. “Way to put on for the women.”
Forward Cierra Burdick left the game for her own basketball workout, only to find it still waiting for her when she returned.
“Glad I caught the end!” she tweeted.
Mississippi coach Matt Insell, a former Kentucky assistant, congratulated his colleagues and summed up the game by tweeting: “Great win for them, for the SEC and for all of women’s basketball.”
While the extra sessions ballooned the scoring to record proportions, both teams scored 90 points apiece in regulation. Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims scored a staggering 47 points in 41 playing minutes before fouling out.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey agreed that the game was good for publicity’s sake. But Mulkey bemoaned the circumstances, specifically the 47 fouls whistled against her team. Seven Lady Bears fouled out. Mulkey said that she “can’t stand” the emphasis on calling hand checks.
Overall, 80 fouls were called and 112 free throws were attempted. Three Kentucky players fouled out as well.
Mulkey summed it up as “not basketball.”
Ironically, a game referenced in establishing the new guidelines was Louisville’s upset of Baylor in the NCAA tournament last season. The intent was to curb the physical play used to guard Lady Bears center Brittney Griner.
Another irony – which Tennessee should note — is Kentucky’s evolution into a scoring machine. Given the new officiating mandate, Mitchell was on the defensive about his team’s pressure defense tactics at SEC Media Days in October. Once the season started, the Wildcats went on the offensive. They’re averaging 98.8 points per game, more than 23 points better than last season’s scoring pace.
No. 5 Kentucky (9-0) had five double-figure scorers Friday night. Guard Jennifer O’Neill came off the bench to score 43 points.
Although their points-allowed average rose to 69.1 per game after Friday, the Wildcats still lead the SEC in steals per game (14.1) and are second in turnover margin (plus-9.3).