“We’re not going to minimize what this team did for 20 games into the last two. There’s no way.”
She did add, though: “There’s a certain maturity you have to have to be a championship team. I think we may have gotten caught up into some of the hype leading into this one and thinking these games would be a little smoother than they turned out to be.
“And when I say we, I don’t mean me. I am fully aware of the gravity of playing Green Bay — no matter who’s on that floor. … But I think we know (that) now.”
Wright State is 15-7 overall and 15-5 in the league, while Milwaukee swept UIC to go 18-6, 15-5.
Green Bay is 15-6, 14-4. But while the longtime league power is mathematically tied for first, it had to play all 20 games to be eligible, according to a Wright State spokesman.
The Raiders’ next game will be at home in the tourney quarterfinals March 2. The seeding was to be decided Saturday night, but their opponent won’t be known until after Thursday’s first-round games.
First-team all-league guard Angel Baker was brilliant again, scoring a game-high 24 points and going 5 of 8 on 3′s. She also had seven rebounds.
She’s averaged 23 points in her last eight games. The 5-8 junior missed two losses at Robert Morris, and her presence no doubt would have helped.
The Raiders had a strong start to the third quarter, and a Baker 3 made it 32-25 with 7:08 to go.
But the difference was only 32-31 after Caitlyn Hibner’s basket with five minutes to go.
And Green Bay took its first lead since the first quarter when Sydney Levy made a three-point play at 1:26 of the third period.
The Phoenix took a 40-39 edge into the final 10 minutes — despite being on its way to making only 18 of 48 shots for the day (37.5%). That’s because Wright State would hit only 19 of 60 (31.7%).
Wright State’s Jada Roberson made it 42-42 on a jumper with 7:31 to go. But it was sayonara after that.
The Phoenix rattled off six straight points in the next 2:20 for its largest lead of the game.
The Raiders could have made it a two-point game with just under three minutes to go but missed a layup. And GB’s Lyndsey Robson swished a 3 at 2:25 to all but end it.
Free throws were a sore spot. The Raiders went 11 of 18, the Phoenix 20 of 26.
“We didn’t do the little things we needed to do. The game plan wasn’t followed the entire time. Against a really good team like Green Bay, it costs you. I can find four or five points anywhere in that game,” Merriweather said.
“We’re disappointed. Sometimes as a coach, you constantly remind your team you play as you practice, that there are going to be obstacles. We’re a little banged up. … But so what. So is everybody else, and people don’t feel bad for you.
“We just didn’t show up enough times and didn’t win positions like we’ve been doing. We fully expected to come out and play better in both games.”
The Raiders have had quite a run in Merriweather’s five years, winning or sharing three regular-season titles and also capturing a league tourney championship. That wouldn’t have happened without the four seniors who were honored in a touching postgame ceremony, including 2020 league defensive player of the year Tyler Frierson.
Merriweather thanked them for their leadership, noting, “This is not an easy group to lead because there are a lot of strong people.
“For all four of you who lead in your own way — on the floor, in practice, during games, in the classroom — and for the example you have worked so hard to set for the people who are younger than you, we as a staff really, really appreciate who you are as people.”