LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky's size alone presented a huge obstacle for Wright State to overcome while adjusting to making its first NCAA tournament appearance.
There was also the added hurdle of beating the third-seeded Wildcats on their home floor, a challenge that proved too much for the No. 14 Raiders. Other than a brief first-half surge that got them within seven points, they couldn't keep up with a Kentucky team that rolled to a 106-60 victory on Saturday and left Wright State coach Mike Bradbury surprised by the margin.
"Well, clearly that didn't go the way we wanted it to, the way we had envisioned," Bradbury said. "The pace was right, the speed of the game was right, all of that stuff was right. But we shot 23 percent.
"I give a lot of credit to Kentucky for that. Defensively, they were good and they are good, they're always good. We missed some open shots, especially early in the game and that got us behind the eight-ball a little bit. Then, it just kind of continued from there."
Wright State (26-9) missed its first seven shots, with three of those blocked. Tay'ler Mingo made the Raiders' first basket from long range to bring them within 12-5 at the 15:53 mark, but the Wildcats soon increased the lead to double digits and were up by 26 at halftime.
It only got worse for the Raiders, who shot just 19 of 83 from the field and were outworked in every phase by the Wildcats (25-8). Wright State was outrebounded 67-40, outscored 66-26 in the paint and 54-8 in bench points.
Ivory James had 16 points to lead Wright State, which also got 12 from Kim Demmings.
The Raiders' only bright spot was scoring 15 points off 22 Kentucky turnovers.
"I think we managed our emotions pretty well," said Mingo, who finished with 14 points. "Our main focus was to try and get back into the game. Shots didn't fall, but we still tried our best to hold it together. It just didn't go our way today."
Injured guard KC Elkins provided a poignant moment when she inbounded the ball in the final seconds of the loss. That allowed Wright State's career games-played leader to participate in the program's milestone after tearing her left anterior cruciate ligament in the Horizon League championship game win, which earned the school's first NCAA appearance.
Jennifer O'Neill scored 21 points for Kentucky. Samarie Walker added 12 with 14 rebounds and seven Wildcats scored in double figures.
Hosting its first NCAA women's postseason game, Kentucky shot 55 percent from the field, grabbed a school-record 67 rebounds and recorded a season-high 12 blocks.
Janee Thompson added 14 points, Linnae Harper 12, DeNesha Stallworth and Bria Goss 11 each and Azia Bishop 10 for Kentucky.
The Wildcats will meet No. 6 Syracuse, a 59-53 winner over No. 11 Chattanooga, in Monday night's second round of the Notre Dame Regional.
Despite the lopsided outcome, the Raiders looked at the game as a step in the right direction for the program.
"We played a great school in Kentucky, so credit them for coming out, playing hard with intensity and competitiveness," Demmings said. "That's one thing I'll remember."