The most spectacular play in Wright State’s 84-61 loss to Texas A&M on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Reed Arena, the Aggies home court, belonged to the Raiders’ Angel Baker.
With 3:20 left in the first had — and Wright State already trailing, 38-21 — the WSU freshman got the ball beyond the arc and dribbled to the left of the free throw line.
With her back then to the basket, she gave a bit of a juke to a defender and then rifled a no-look, behind-the-back pass, that zipped between three stunned A&M players – Kayla Wells. Chennedy Carter and Caylinne Martin – and sailed perfectly into the hands of the Raiders Teneshia Dixon, who made the layup.
A roar of wonderment and appreciation — even though the place was filled with A&M fans — went through the Arena.
The ESPN announcers were incredulous on the broadcast:
“Behind the back, no look! Did we just go to a Top 10 segment?”
“That’s SportsCenter right there!
“That was beautiful! Good gracious!”
As the Wright State bus pulled away from Reed Arena more than an hour after the game, the players and some of the coaches all were on their phones watching the video on the NCAA WBB Twitter account.
Before long the video would go viral.
And by Friday night it would be No. 8 in the ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays of the Day.
A couple of days before the game, WSU coach Katrina Merriweather again sang the praises of Baker, the first-year player from Indianapolis, who came off the bench for the 27-7 Raiders this season:
“She’s the best freshman we’ve ever signed at Wright State.”
Baker showed signs of that loftiness in a few games this season.
She opened the year making eight of 11 field goal attempts for 21 points at CSU Bakersfield. A few games later she made 9 of 13 shots for 24 points against Kent State.
In late December she had a 27-point outing versus Cleveland State and last month she scored 20 on Detroit Mercy.
For the season, she averaged 9.6 points per game, third best on the team.
Friday, though, she and senior Symone “Junior” Simmons were the two best players on the court for WSU
While many of the Raiders were done in a bit by a combination of nerves and the talent level of the 14th ranked Aggies – a program that was in its 14th straight NCAA Tournament and had won the national crown in 2011 – Simmons and Baker held their own.
Although she’s listed as 5-10, Simmons is just 5-7. She’s the only Raiders player in history to hit the four-digit mark in both career points (1,033) and rebounds (1,063).
She had 13 rebounds against A & M, which countered with 6-foot-4 center Ciera Johnson and 6-foot-2 forward N’dea Jones, who was the second-leading rebounder in the SEC, averaging 11.5 a game.
Friday, Simmons outdid her on the boards by five.
But the real standout was Baker and her no-look, behind-the-back stunner was not the only clip turning people’s heads.
With about 8 ½ minutes left in the half, she had come down the lane against the Aggies, did a spin move past her defender and scored the layup.
She led Wright State with 22 points – she was 4-of-7 from three-point range – and had three assists and two steals.
Afterward, Merriweather expressed pride in her entire team. She especially praised the three seniors who had been with the program for four years – Simmons, Emily Vogelpohl and Mackenzie Taylor – and how they had provided the foundation for this success.
And when she got Baker, Merriweather gushed:
“Angel is just always Angel. Again, you have Angel Baker and Michal Miller (the Raiders guard who had 12 points Friday) they are creators and they are well how can I put this?
“They create their own shots very well. They create for other people, too. And when both of them are really good, we’re really hard to beat.
“Angel Baker, what I assume will happen going forward, is that she will become more consistent. Same with Michal Miller.
“Today Angel Baker showed us that she positively belongs on the floor with anybody that we play. What she showed us is she’s not afraid to play against anyone, anywhere, at any time and I’m not surprised.
“And what I always attribute our best characteristic of our senior class is that it adapted to her presence because they want to win so bad. They’ve always said, ‘Hey, you know what? Go ahead. If you can get the shot, you take it. If you can go one on one and get to the rim, then you do it and we’ll just play around you.’
“And it has said so much about this team being able to have a freshman come in and have that impact for us.
“She’s just special and we knew it in high school. We knew we got a steal when we signed her.
“It has just been a pleasure to watch her grow from the first game … until today.”
And speaking of her “today,” that guy from ESPN said it best:
“That was beautiful. Good gracious!”
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