The scoreboard told a difficult tale for Wright State University’s women’s basketball team Saturday, but it didn’t define the season.
The Raiders’ first NCAA tournament appearance resulted in a 106-60 beating from 10th-ranked Kentucky at UK’s Memorial Coliseum, with WSU finishing 26-9.
“Clearly that didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” Wright State coach Mike Bradbury said. “We did something that Wright State’s never done. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players. It just wasn’t our day.”
Ivory James (16 points), Tay’ler Mingo (14) and Kim Demmings (12) topped the scoring for the Raiders. Yet that trio was just 13 of 59 from the floor.
WSU fashioned a 22.9 field-goal percentage and got drubbed 67-40 on the boards. The Wildcats’ rebounding total tied the single-game NCAA tournament record.
“Rebounding is always an emphasis for us,” said Samarie Walker, a Kentucky senior forward and Chaminade Julienne High School product who collected 12 points and 14 boards. “I don’t think we were thinking about the margin. We just wanted to win the boards.”
Both teams liked the game’s fast pace. The Wildcats (25-8) simply wore Wright State down with their size, depth and athleticism.
“We shot 22 percent,” Bradbury said. “I give Kentucky a lot of credit for that. We have to drive (the ball), and that’s where their size got to us. Those shots that we normally make around the basket, they’re much more difficult against Kentucky.”
UK took off midway through the first half, scoring 10 straight points to create a 33-16 bulge. It was 51-25 at halftime.
“I think we managed our emotions pretty well,” Mingo said. “Shots wouldn’t fall, but we still tried our best to hold it together.”
Tayler Stanton had seven points and 14 rebounds for WSU. Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field and put seven players in double digits, led by Jennifer O’Neill’s 21 points.
UK coach Matthew Mitchell admitted he was a little surprised that his team, idle since March 9, was so sharp.
“My mind-set going into the game was just really to let them know they had clear advantages in the game,” Mitchell said. “I’m thrilled with the margin of victory. I feel like they really attacked the game and set a great tone.”
Bradbury called a timeout with 5.8 seconds left and turned to senior guard KC Elkins, who suffered a torn ACL last weekend. Elkins, clearly unable to play, finished the game by throwing the ball inbounds and stepping on the court.
“We had talked about it,” Bradbury said. “I was hoping that we couldn’t, that the game would be competitive and you couldn’t afford to do something like that.”
“That was unexpected,” Mingo said. “It makes you sad and then it makes you happy at the same time. I was proud that she was able to get up and walk out there. It took a lot of courage for her to do that.”
Bradbury said the differences between Wright State and Kentucky are obvious, but the Raiders will keep pushing to become a contender at this level.
“Hopefully we can build off of that and we can continue to recruit, because that’s what it’s all about,” Bradbury said. “I think we can use this to continue to improve our program and be good at our level. Hopefully you get in a game like this and, on the right day, something good happens.”