AMES, IA.-- McNeese State's women's basketball team came into Saturday's game as the 15th seed and gave second seed Kentucky all it could hand despite falling 68-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Even though it was a lost for the Cowgirls, in other ways it was a victory.
In the Cowgirls' first NCAA Tournament appearance last season, they were down by 20 at the half and were thinking of ways to improve in the second half of the game. This year, the Cowgirls only trailed by three at the half (31-28) and were talking about how to come away with a victory in the locker room at the half.
"We came in confident today and felt like we had a good game plan. I told the players and particularly the seniors, no matter what the outcome, I was proud of them and what they have done to build this program it is today," said head coach Brooks Donald Williams.
Senior Martika Hull closed out her playing career by tying her career high with 20 points and ended the game with a double-double with 13 rebounds. The double-double is her 18th career and 16th this season.
Junior Caitlyn Baggett ended the game with a game high 22 points, four shy of tying her career high. Baggett was hassled all game by Kentucky's defense but managed to dish out four assists also. The Cowgirls committed 13 turnovers in the game, the lowest number by a Kentucky opponent this season.
The big difference in the game was a height disadvantage and bench by Kentucky. The Wildcats outrebounded the Cowgirls 58-40 and got 31 points from its bench as opposed to McNeese's eight points from its bench.
Trailing by three at the half, Kentucky scored the first six points of the second half to extend its lead to nine points. The Wildcats held its largest lead of the game (12 points) with 5:18 left in the game.
The Cowgirls would come back to cut the lead to eight with 1:13 left in the game and got as close as six with :39 left in the game and the final score.
McNeese stayed with the Wildcats in the first half who used its bench a lot by subbing pretty often. The Cowgirls scored the first four points of the game on a drive by Ashlyn Baggett and a layup by Caitlyn Baggett in the first two minutes of the game.