LEXINGTON, Ky. — Wright State’s first foray into the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship was a brief one.
The Kentucky Wildcats tied an NCAA women’s tournament record for rebounds in a game, and set school marks for rebounds and points in an NCAA tourney game, in Saturday’s 106-60 win over Wright State, at UK’s Memorial Coliseum.
“Well, clearly that didn’t go the way that we wanted it to,” said Wright State coach Mike Bradbury. “I’ll say this. The pace was right, the speed of the game was right. All that stuff was right. We shot 22 percent, and I give a lot of that credit to Kentucky for that. Defensively, they were good and they are good, they’re always good. And then, you know, we missed some open shots early in the game and that got us behind the 8-ball a bit.”
The Raiders missed their first seven shots from the floor, including a pair of layups. Tay’ler Mingo hit a pair of free throws to even things up at 2-2 with 17:38 left to play in the first half, but that was the only time Kentucky didn’t hold the lead.
And whenever Wright State did shoot the ball, they rarely got a second chance. Kentucky (25-8) hauled in 67 rebounds, tying a 1995 NCAA tournament mark set by Duke in a four-overtime win over Arizona.
Wright State (26-7) spent the day trying to shoot around or over the taller Wildcats with little success. The Raiders converted just 19 of 83 shot attempts from the floor (22.9 percent), and 49 of UK’s rebounds were of the defensive variety.
“Rebounding is always an emphasis for us. Coach (Matthew Mitchell) makes sure that we know that’s what we need to do every game no matter who we’re playing. This time, he definitely emphasized that and especially since we had a size advantage, there was no reason for us to lose the boards today,” said Kentucky’s Samarie Walker, a Chaminade Julienne alum from West Carrollton. She said playing against a Dayton-area school motivated her “a little,” then broke into a big smile.
Meanwhile, all 11 players on the Kentucky roster scored at least two points. Seven Wildcats finished in double-figure scoring, with outside sharpshooter Jennifer O’Neill leading all scorers with 21 points. O’Neill was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the three-point arc.
“I felt their guards were the same size as us. They did a real good job of staying in the passing lane, pressuring the ball and inside they had a little bit of a size advantage, but I feel like our post players competed,” said WSU junior Kim Demmings.
Bradbury credited Tayler Stanton for battling hard amongst the Kentucky trees for rebounds. She tied UK’s Walker for most rebounds in the game with 14.
In her final game as a Raider, Ivory James finished with a team-high 16 points. Junior guard Tay’ler Mingo finished with 14 points and Demmings finished with a dozen.
As a tribute to his fallen senior, K.C. Elkins, who was sidelined with a knee injury, Bradbury called timeout with 10 seconds left to play in order to enable Elkins to get into the game one last time.
Bradbury said the Raiders program can build off of Saturday’s game.
“I think it only helps, and hopefully we can build off that,” he said. “We can continue to recruit because that’s what it’s all about. We don’t have any McDonald’s All-Americans and they’ve got three or four. … It’s a different level, and let’s not pretend it’s not …”
Actually, UK currently has five McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster. And they’ll add 2014 McDonald’s All-American Alyssa Rice of Reynoldsburg next season.