The Wright State women’s basketball team got off to a frosty start offensively Thursday afternoon against Valparaiso, but the Raiders kept the defensive heat dialed up for 40 minutes to stay perfect in 2017.
WSU missed 22 of its first 24 shots before rolling to its 10th consecutive win, 63-48, at the Nutter Center.
“We’ve been a streaky shooting team all season long, so the only thing we can make sure is consistent is our defense and rebounding, and that’s what we did,” Raiders coach Katrina Merriweather said.
Valparaiso’s 48 points were one more than the season low the Raiders allowed in Saturday’s 67-47 conquest of Northern Kentucky.
That win enabled WSU (19-5 overall, 11-1 Horizon League) to move into first place, and Thursday’s kept them there.
Junior guard Chelsea Welch led the Raiders with a game-high 26 points, while junior forward Lexi Smith scored 13 and grabbed eight rebounds, all at the offensive end.
Sophomore forward Symone Simmons took control on the defensive glass to finish with a career-high 17 rebounds, the most by a WSU player this season.
“Lexi got zero defensive rebounds because Valpo was using all their resources to keep her off the boards,” Merriweather said. “So you turn around and you’ve got (Simmons) who comes in and gets 12 (defensive rebounds).
“That is a philosophy of ours,” Merriweather added. “We’ve got to pick each other up. Everybody’s not going to have a great game every night. So if you see someone having a rough one, pick them up and try to replace what we’re missing. That’s what she did.”
The Raiders held the Crusaders (6-18, 1-12 HL) to 30-percent shooting and forced them into 17 turnovers to overcome their own shooting woes. WSU hit 28 percent of its shots, including 18 percent (4 of 22) from 3-point range.
Sophomore Mackenzie Taylor added nine points for WSU after starting 0 for 9, while sophomore guard Emily Vogelpohl had six points and seven rebounds.
Merriweather said she initially tried to downplay the team’s climb to the top of the standings last week but later had a change of heart.
“I wanted them to take the time to be proud about it,” she said. “I wanted to acknowledge it. None of us are guaranteed to ever be in a position like this ever again, so it would be a sad thing to not celebrate it and then have it pass by.
“They got a little time off. That’s always a celebration for them. And I didn’t forbid them from talking about it, which is your initial reaction as a coach. But I think it’s important that they embrace it. It’s the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment, so I didn’t want to steal that away from them.”
The 10-game winning streak is the longest since the program moved to Division I in 1987-88. The overall record is 13 straight, set in 1986-87.
The Raiders will go for their 11the consecutive win Saturday against Illinois-Chicago at 4 p.m. at the Nutter Center.