AMES, Iowa – A balanced scoring effort and a dominating performance on the boards helped the No. 12/11 Kentucky women’s basketball team defeat McNeese State 68-62 on Saturday and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. The Wildcats will face a tough seventh-seeded and 10th-ranked Green Bay squad in the second round Monday with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Game time is 9:45 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a team play better than I saw Green Bay play last night, all year,” UK Hoops and AP Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year Matthew Mitchell said. “That was as impressive of 40 minutes from a team as I’ve seen all season. Just the intensity with which they played last night. They just played so hard, they really spread you out and it looks like all five players can drive the ball. They’re just a smart, aggressive, extremely physical team that can make you pay for mistakes. There’s a lot of things that worry me, but I think right now, offensively, their versatility on offense and just their tenacity and their ability to be physical on defense.”
Eight players scored at least six points for Kentucky in the opening round vs. McNeese State. Senior guard Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) and freshman center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) led UK with double-figure scoring efforts. Snowden, the Southeastern Conference Co-6th Woman of the Year, led the Wildcats in scoring with 11 points, while Bishop came off the bench for 10 points and three blocks in just 16 minutes. Sophomore reserve forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds which tied for the most rebounds by a UK player in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats grabbed a season-high 58 rebounds in the win, the most for UK in the Big Dance and the most since charting a school-record 62 boards vs. Murray State on Nov. 26, 2010. Sophomore Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.), who started for the first time since Dec. 28, swatted four blocks in the win, a UK NCAA Tournament high.
Seventh-seeded Green Bay (31-1), located in Green Bay, Wis., earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by claiming the Horizon League Championship. In its first round game, the Phoenix (31-1) topped 10th-seeded Iowa State 71-57 after forcing the Cyclones into 30 turnovers, including 19 in the first half. Green Bay had four players score 14 or more points in the victory, led by Lydia Bauer and Sarah Eichler’s 16 points.
Green Bay is led by the Horizon League Player of the Year, Julie Wojta (pronounced WHITE-uh). A senior from Francis Creek, Wis., Wojta averages a double-double with 19.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Wojta also leads the Phoenix offense with a team-high 3.6 assists per game. On the defensive end, the national player of the year candidate swipes 3.7 steals per game. Adrian Ritchie and Bauer also average double-figures on the scoring end with 12.5 and 11.2 points per game, respectively.
Ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll of the regular season, Green Bay is in the top-15 nationally in eight statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring margin, field-goal percentage, won-lost percentage, assists per game, steals per game, turnover margin and assist-turnover ratio. Individually, Wojta ranks in the top-25 nationally in five statistical categories, including points per game, rebounds per game, steals per game, field-goal percentage and double-doubles.
Like Kentucky, Green Bay is one of the most impressive defensive teams in the country. The Phoenix rank second behind the Wildcats in turnover margin at +9.4. UK leads nationally in turnover margin at +10.3. Green Bay forces 24.9 turnovers per game, while only committing 15.5. The Phoenix ranks eighth nationally in steals per game with 12.3, while UK is 11th, averaging 12.3 per game.
Monday will mark the first meeting between Kentucky and Green Bay. The Wildcats are 14-0 all-time vs. teams from Green Bay’s Horizon League. UK is 8-0 vs. Detroit, 4-0 vs. Butler, and 1-0 vs. Cleveland State and Illinois-Chicago.
The Ames, Iowa pod is hosted by Iowa State and will be played at Hilton Coliseum. Single session tickets are $18 for adults and $13 for students. Tickets are available through Iowa State’s ticket office at 888-478-2925 or online at cyclones.com. Everyone regardless of age requires a ticket for admission. Tickets may also be purchased online at http://www.ticketmaster.com/ISU-Cyclones-Hilton-tickets-Ames/venue/50257?DB_OEM_ID=10700&brand=iowastate.