Women’s Basketball: Wildcats’ size, depth proves too strong for Raiders
Lexington, Ky. – In a year full of accolades, broken records and team firsts, the Wright State women’s basketball team had plenty to celebrate throughout its story-book season.
The ending to that story was unkind to WSU, however, and saw the Raiders bow out to an ultimately more talented and more physical opponent.
Jennifer O’Neill lead Kentucky with 21 points and seven Wildcats finished in double figures in a comfortable 106-60 win over Wright State in the opening round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
“I think we had a real advantage personnel-wise and we had some size advantages that made it difficult for them to score at the rim,” Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell said.
The Raiders ended their season 26-7 overall – a program-best for wins in a single season.
“Well, clearly that didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” Raiders head coach Mike Bradbury said. “The way we had it envisioned…the pace was right, the speed of the game was right, all of that stuff was right. We shot 22 percent and I give a lot of credit to Kentucky for that.”
WSU hit on only 8-of-40 shots in the first half and trailed UK 51-25 entering the locker room. When the Raiders were afforded clean looks, either in the paint, or from beyond the arc, they could rarely hit them. The Raiders shot only 16.7 percent from 3, including 2-of-11 before halftime.
“We missed some open shots, especially early in the game and that kind of got us behind the eight ball a little bit and it just kind of continued from there,” Bradbury said.
The Wildcats jumped on the Raiders early and often, flexing its muscle in the paint, where the Wildcats owned a 66-26 scoring advantage. Forwards DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker combined for 23 points, 23 rebounds and six blocks.
UK used their height and length to give WSU fits in the post, en route to a plus-27 edge on the boards. The 67 total rebounds UK pulled down tied an NCAA Tournament record. Walker led UK with 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
“Rebounding is always an emphasis for us. Coach [Matthews] makes sure that that’s what we need to do every game, no matter who we’re playing, and this time he definitely emphasized that,” Walker said. “Especially since we had a size advantage, there was no reason for us to lose on the boards today.”
Raiders guard Kim Demmings was held to 12 points and finished 5-of-20 from the floor.
The Horizon League Player of the Year averaged a career-best 22.7 points per game this season and entered Saturday’s game scoring 22 or more in five consecutive games. Against the Wildcats, Demmings and the rest of the Raiders, struggled to maintain a consistent scoring attack and were visibly bothered by UK’s taller presence around the basket.
“I felt their guards were the same size as. 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,” Demmings said.
Senior Ivory James led WSU with 16 points. Tay’ler Mingo scored 14 and Tayler Stanton added seven points and 14 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards.
Bradbury said in the face of difficult defensive matchups, Stanton was as effective as she could be.
“She competed tonight, she played hard and she did all she could do,” Bradbury said.
Despite the disappoint associated with the blowout loss to end the season, Bradbury said towards the end of his post-game press conference that what the Raiders accomplished in his fourth season at WSU was still considered a success.
“We did something that Wright State has never done,” Bradbury said. “We got in the tournament and we won 26 games. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players than that group. I don’t think people understand how easy it is to be down 40 points with six minutes to go and not just quit. That’s easy, that’s human nature…it may be what I would have done, and for them to not do that, really they make you proud.”