LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Jennifer O’Neill scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half and No. 13 Kentucky rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat No. 8 Baylor 74-64 on Monday night.
O’Neill missed seven of her eight shots in the first half before heating up after the break. She helped Kentucky overcome a 40-26 deficit with a 21-7 run that tied the game at 47 before scoring five consecutive points in the final minutes to put the Wildcats ahead for good at 68-64 with 1:17 remaining.
Makayla Epps added 12 points including four free throws in the final minute as Kentucky scored the game’s last 11 points over 2:28. Linnae Harper added 11 for the Wildcats, who shot just 36 percent but held Baylor (1-1) to 32 percent shooting and outrebounded the Lady Bears 24-18 in the final 20 minutes.
Nina Davis scored 18 points, Khadijah Cave added 17 and Imani Wright 10 for Baylor, which seemed in control with that 14-point lead before Kentucky clamped down on both ends for a 2-2 tie in what has been an interesting series to say the least.
Monday’s meeting at Rupp 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 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.
Both teams started ice cold offensively as well, though Baylor warmed up to make 14 of 30 from the floor (47 percent) and build a 34-24 halftime lead. Kentucky had good looks among its 30 chances as well, but those weren’t falling and the taller Lady Bears were often there to grab those misses.
The result was a 24-16 rebounding edge that often led to extra shots and helped start their transition game.
Baylor looked primed to break it open on Niya Johnson’s jumper for a 40-26 lead early in the second half, but Kentucky awoke on both ends to mount a 21-7 run over 6:48, capped by Epps’ two free throws that tied the game with 11:59 remaining.
Baylor regrouped to twice take four-point leads behind a 3-pointer by Alexis Prince and a long jumper by Imani Wright, but Kentucky fought back and grabbed its first lead since the early minutes as Bria Goss made a long-range jumper and two free throws for a 59-56 lead which grew after that .
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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