KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The UMKC women’s basketball team (2-10) competed in its second in game in as many days, battling in a hard-fought 77-68 loss to Denver (8-6) in the finale of the Roo Holiday Classic.
The first quarter of action began perfectly according to plan for the Roos as Aries Washington (Kansas City, Mo.) buried a shot from beyond the arc on the opening possession of the game. Washington, who finished with a team-high 20 points, was a force for UMKC throughout the entire contest in her efforts to will the squad to victory.
Her astounding offensive production marked her tenth game scoring in double figures in the 2017-18 campaign and her fifth time dropping in 20-plus points. It was not just Washington’s performance on the offensive end of the floor that gave the Roos a major boost, as her eight defensive rebounds and twelve total rebounds were both game-highs and gave her the first double-double of her senior season.
The first period of play set the stage for what would be a highly contested ballgame with two ties and five lead changes all taking place in the opening ten minutes. After trading baskets back and forth, the Pioneers scored the final six points of the quarter, resulting in a 21-15 Denver lead.
Both sides got off to rather sluggish starts in the second quarter as they combined to miss their first six shots and two free throws of the frame. Following a pair of makes by Washington at the free throw line, where she finished a perfect 6 of 6, Denver bolted out on a 17-7 run to extend their lead to 16 points, their largest of the first half. The Roos were able to put a stop to the run but could not shrink the advantage before half, entering the break trailing 44-28.
India Johnson (Overland Park, Kan.) got UMKC started with a jumper on the opening possession of the third quarter, providing a much-needed boost as the Roos attempted to claw back into the game. Johnson, who exited the game in the fourth quarter with a finger injury, finished her night with eight points and an assist.
The Pioneers would quickly strike back with five straight points to extend their lead to 49-32, their largest of the game. UMKC has shown a great amount of resiliency despite falling behind in contests during a tough nonconference schedule and tonight proved no differently. The Roos continued to up the pressure and fight with a hefty amount of passion as the third quarter drew to a close.
Samantha Waldron (Omaha, Neb.), who finished the first half with just one point, caught fire following the third quarter media timeout. A layup followed up by a pair of three-pointers cut the Denver lead to a manageable 61-50 score as the final quarter approached.
Waldron accounted for 18 points in the game on an efficient 7 of 11 (63.6%) shooting from the field and also knocked down 3 of 5 attempts from beyond the arc. Her three-ball to end the third quarter was perhaps the biggest of the game as it sent the senior guard over the 1,000 point mark for her UMKC career. Additionally, her impressive 39 combined points in the Roo Holiday Classic earned Waldron a spot on the All-Tournament team.
“It was great to see Samantha get her 1,000th point,” noted head coach Jacie Hoyt. “She is a hard working player who deserves that recognition and I am very proud of her.”
The Roos continued to pry away at the Denver lead as the final quarter of regulation began. A three-pointer from Sierra Bone (Flower Mound, Texas) cut the lead to eight on the opening possession and big shot from beyond the arc from Waldron brought the Roos to an even closer seven points at the 6:19 mark.
The comeback was in full effect as a technical foul was issued to the Denver sideline following a pivotal offensive foul charged to the Pioneers. Washington routinely knocked down both ensuing free throws and Waldron provided a further spark with a layup to bring the Roos within three points, their closest margin since the first quarter, with 5:35 to play in regulation.
UMKC’s admirable effort to bring home a win in the Roo Holiday Classic finale would ultimately fall just short despite the tremendous battle. Denver would close out the game on a 10-4 run as the Roos were unable get their shots to fall in the final minutes of play, losing by a final score of 77-68.
“Our team did a great job of clawing back into the game,” commented Hoyt. “We have been going through a lot of adversity with players getting injured. I love the way our team fights until the end, but at the same time we can’t continue to get in a hole early in games.”
The team will have an extended break for the holidays before returning to action in the FAU Holiday Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. UMKC is slated to play Stetson on Friday, Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m. CT before matching up with either Delaware State or host FAU on Dec. 30. The tournament will likely serve a milestone for yet another Roo player as Aries Washington sits a mere seven points shy of the 1,000 point mark for her career.
– UMKC –