Archdeacon: Harris breaks out of shooting slump to lead Wright State women

Wright State sophomore Anisja Harris during a game earlier this season. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State sophomore Anisja Harris during a game earlier this season. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

She hung up her Wright State uniform 10 months ago, graduated and now is playing professionally with the Toledo Threat, but Symone Simmons’ presence still is being felt in the Raiders women’s basketball program.

While she was at WSU, Simmons was an iron woman, the only player in program history to score over 1,000 points and pull down over 1,000 rebounds.

Saturday her contributions made an impact again, this time through the efforts of sophomore guard Anisja Harris, who made seven of 10 three-point attempts and finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Raiders to a 91-41 victory over Youngstown State at the Nutter Center.

The long-range shooting display by Harris was reminiscent of another three-point extravaganza she had last season when she made eight of 11 treys in a 24-point effort against Kentucky State.

Wright State landed her out of Gahanna Lincoln – by way of three seasons at Westerville North — thanks to the efforts of Simmons. She had been teammates with the younger Harris at Westerville North and sold her on the Raiders’ program.

“She told me she loved it at Wright State, so that built my confidence in the school when I first came here to play in their elite camp,” Harris said. “When I got here, I instantly fell in love with the program too and after that I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

She joined the Raiders last year, so she got another season with Simmons, who was part of a triumvirate of 1,000-point senior scorers along with Mackenzie Taylor and Emily Vogelpohl. Add in Arizona transfer Michal Miller and super freshman Angel Baker and there was a logjam at guard and Harris got limited minutes on the court.

Although she did have that one explosive game, Harris averaged just 8.5 minutes a 2.9 points a game last season.

This year with that trio of four-year stars graduated, the early burden of the season fell on Miller and Baker.

“They were preseason selections and felt the weight of the world on their shoulders,” coach Katrina Merriweather said Saturday. “There was not enough trust built from one year to the next and they felt they had to do it all themselves They didn’t want to but we felt it was our best chance at winning.”

It wasn’t the perfect formula and the Raiders had a roller-coaster run through the non-conference play and into their first conference game, a two-point loss at Milwaukee on Dec. 28. That was WSU’s fourth straight loss and its record fell to 5-7.

“We’re going to be as food as our bench is, the same as it was last year when Angel and Michal came off the bench,” Merriweather said. “We needed other people to get confidence and step up.”

Since the Dec. 28 loss, the Raiders have won three straight conference games and the bench has been a big reason the past two games.

Freshman Jada Roberson scored 17 against Cleveland State on Thursday night and had 16 Saturday. She made 7 of her 11 shots (1 for 2from long range) against the Penguins, but Harris stole the headlines because her seven field goals all came from beyond the arc,

Her effort was a complete turn-around from recent outings when she admitted she was in a bit of a shooting “slump.”

She was just 3 for 15 over her past five games and had started the season 0 for 8 against Abilene Christian and CSU Bakersfield and then a couple of games later went 0 for 7 against Loyola-Maryland.

“We know she can shoot, but she’s young and sometimes the confidence has to come from others,” Merriweather said. “She just had to stay the course and then, every once in a while, she does something like this.”

In the Green Bay game, Harris jammed the thumb on her shooting had and though it was bothering her, she said the Raiders training staff put a soft cast on it and wrapped it and she felt OK in warmups.

“After I made the first couple of shots tonight, I felt really confident and then my teammates just kept finding me.”

The Raiders are 8-7 and riding a three-game winning streak.

Harris said she and Simmons message each other often and after Saturday's game she would reconfirm what she has said before.

She does love it at Wright State.