It was too much to expect a repeat or even anything close to the four-overtime epic that Kentucky and Baylor played in Dallas in early December. Instead, Saturday's regional semifinal in South Bend, Ind., was the Lady Bears' from the outset. Baylor executed and maintained a level of intensity over 40 minutes, trailing only briefly (5-4) before finishing a dominant 90-72 win to earn the program's fourth Elite Eight in five years. A look at how the game was won.
KEY STAT: All season, there has been "good Kentucky" and "bad Kentucky." Lately, the Wildcats were nothing but good. Saturday, the enigmatic and inconsistent version returned at the most inopportune time.
Poor shot selection, a lack of patience, a stagnant offense and some unforced turnovers contributed to Kentucky's slow start, but an inability to compete with Baylor on the glass was the Wildcats' biggest problem from the opening tip. The game wasn't even six minutes old and the Lady Bears held a 14-2 rebounding edge. With DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker, inside play was expected to be an advantage for the Wildcats, but Baylor was far more aggressive. Baylor took a 14-7 lead despite Odyssey Sims missing her first six shots. Sune Agbuke, Baylor's 6-foot-4 junior, established herself inside against Kentucky's bigs right away, netting 4 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in the first three minutes.
KEY STAT II: Kentucky gave up its most points in a half this season in the first 20 minutes as Baylor took a 49-32 edge into the locker room (the Lady Bears scored 44 first-half points in that aforementioned December meeting). The pick-and-roll that gave the Wildcats so much trouble in Dallas was nearly as problematic Saturday in South Bend. Baylor shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and 48 percent for the game (32 of 67). The Lady Bears seemingly got whatever they wanted offensively. Vintage Kentucky defense makes the opponent uncomfortable. Baylor was almost never uncomfortable Saturday.
KEY STAT III: In the December meeting, Kentucky's Jennifer O'Neill scored 42 points off the bench. On Saturday, she missed all 12 of her field goal attempts and scored just eight points.
TURNING POINT: Despite the slow start, the Wildcats pulled within 32-28 after two O'Neill free throws with 4:43 remaining in the first half. As it turned out, however, Kentucky was in the throes of a significant field goal drought. The Wildcats went more than six minutes without a bucket, a stretch that ended only with eight seconds remaining in the first half. During the Kentucky dry spell, Baylor scored 12 straight points and eventually extended the run to 17-2 for a 19-point lead. The Wildcats never mounted a serious threat after that.