LEXINGTON, Ky. –
After playing one of its most complete games of the season, the Kentucky women’s basketball team earned its seventh consecutive first-round win in the NCAA Tournament with a commanding 106-60 win over Wright State on Saturday. The Wildcats will now face a sixth-seeded Syracuse in the second round Monday night in Memorial Coliseum with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Game time is 6:40 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3. It also will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Network with Neil Price.
Kentucky set several school and NCAA Tournament records in its 46-point win over the Raiders in the opening round. UK broke the school record and tied an NCAA record for most rebounds (67) in an NCAA Tournament game. UK’s 44 made field goals tied for the fourth-most in an NCAA Tournament game. Kentucky set school records for most points (106), rebounds (67), field goals made (44), blocked shots (12) and largest margin of victory (+46) in an NCAA Tournament game. The Wildcats shot 55.0 percent from the field, including 67.7 percent in the second half. UK also swatted a season-high 12 blocks in the game.
All 11 players scored at least two points but seven were in double figures. Junior guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) paced the pack with 21 points off the bench. Senior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded her ninth double-double of the season and 20th of her career with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Her 14 rebounds were a school record for an NCAA Tournament game. Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) finished with 14 points, while freshman guard Linnae Harper (Chicago) added 12 points off the bench, her third straight game in double digits. Junior guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) scored 11 points and senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) also had 11 points along with a season-high five blocks which set a school record for an NCAA Tournament game.
“We had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel,” UK Hoops head coacfh Matthew Mitchell said. “This game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to be ready to play. We really need a good day of preparation here to get ready for Syracuse. What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we do. They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they’ve got some half-court traps that we’re going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we’ve had some success against, but it certainly hasn’t been automatic this year. There have been times where we’ve struggled against the 2-3 zone. When you think about us offensively, we really just really need to be sharp during our practice session today and see if we can transfer from yesterday, which was all man-to-man, and now tomorrow is pretty much all a zone look unless Syracuse changes something up. (I’m) trying to get the players to switch gears and their preparation is going to be important today. And then offensively, they certainly have some explosive players that pose some problems for us. They have a big presence there with (Shakeya) Leary in the middle, and she had a big day yesterday in Chattanooga and we were impressed with her. (Tasia) Butler is a great shooter and I don’t know about (Brittany) Sykes and what her health is, but she is an unbelievable player. She is very, very high-level and just explosive. It’s a really good group of players there that are talented and have won some big games, so we’ll have to be ready for them.”
The Orange enter Monday’s game with a 23-9 record after defeating Chattanooga in the first round, 59-53. The win marked their first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
‘Cuse relied on its tough 2-3 zone defense vs. Chattanooga, as the Orange struggled shooting in the first round. Syracuse shot just 31.5 percent (17-of-54) from the field and 1-of-15 (6.7 percent) from 3-point range. SU dominated the glass, outrebounding Chattanooga, 52-36.
Sophomore guard Brittney Sykes leads the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, while also pulling down 5.1 rebounds a contest. Sykes earned Second Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in leading Syracuse to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore guard Brianna Butler is the only other player averaging double-figures at 14.5 points per game. Senior center Shakeya Leary pulls down a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game.
UK is 2-0 all-time vs. Syracuse, 1-0 in Lexington. The last meeting vs. the Orange was in 1995 in a game played in Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. UK won 83-63. The first-ever meeting between the teams was in Memorial Coliseum on March 18, 1981 in the AIAW semifinals. UK won 87-63.
UK is 15-17 vs. teams from the current alignment of the Atlantic Coast Conference, 0-1 this season. The Wildcats fell to No. 2 Duke in Rupp Arena, 69-61, on Dec. 22, 2013.
UK is now 15-10 all-time in the Big Dance, including 11-4 under Mitchell. The best finishes for UK came in 2013, 2012, 2010 and 1982 when the Wildcats fell one win shy of the Final Four.