The NCAA tournament spotlight will shine on Wright State University’s women’s basketball team for the first time this morning.
However the Raiders perform at 10th-ranked Kentucky, they know it’s a tremendous opportunity.
“Being able to be here after all the hard work we put in, it’s humbling and fun at the same time,” junior guard Tay’ler Mingo said. “We’re just ready to play the same basketball we’ve been playing all year.”
An ESPN2 audience will get a chance to watch a Wright State squad that leads the nation in turnover margin (9.9) and is fourth in scoring (84.0).
Kim Demmings (22.7), Ivory James (17.2) and Mingo (15.1) are the point leaders for the Raiders (26-8), who will play without No. 4 scorer KC Elkins (8.1).
Elkins suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend and will be replaced in the lineup by junior Sarah Hunter.
“There’s no reason to be nervous,” said Demmings, a junior guard. “We’re expecting a high-intensity game, a real competitive game. We’re expecting to get out and run and just have fun.”
WSU and Kentucky (24-8) prefer a high tempo. The Wildcats, though, have a significant height advantage, and they’ve been hardened by a Southeastern Conference schedule.
The schools have three common opponents. Wright State beat Bradley 87-71, lost to Louisville 99-40 and lost to Middle Tennessee 69-62. UK beat Bradley 117-77, Louisville 69-64 and Middle Tennessee 84-72.
“We’re not going to get any bigger and they’re not going to get any smaller, so we just have to compete,” Raiders coach Mike Bradbury said. “There’s nothing magic about it. We’ve got to make it as hard on them as possible.”
Bradbury said Wright State and Kentucky have similar athleticism, so the rebounding piece is critical. The Wildcats’ roster includes five players between 6-foot-1 and 6-3.
“We’re definitely physical,” Mingo said. “I don’t think speed takes away from us being physical. I think our aggressiveness on defense and turning people over allows us to play the game we want to play.
“Size matters sometimes, but size doesn’t win a game. It’s the heart. It’s the hustle. It’s the work that you put in.”
Six UK players are scoring at least eight points per game, led by junior guard Jennifer O’Neill (12.7), senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (12.3) and junior guard Bria Goss (9.9). Kentucky is scoring 81.3 points per contest and likes to bring waves of pressure.
“We need to stay in attack mode,” Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We need to be the more aggressive team.”
What: NCAA women’s basketball tournament, No. 14 seed Wright State (26-8) vs. No. 3 seed Kentucky (24-8), 11 a.m.; No. 6 seed Syracuse (22-9) vs. No. 11 seed Chattanooga (29-3), 1:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Next: Winners play Monday at 6:30 p.m.