Wright State couldn’t overcome fatigue, Missouri State

Wright State head coach Katrina Merriweather draws a play for her team against Missouri State during the second quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the University of Texas at San Antonio Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday., March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Wright State head coach Katrina Merriweather draws a play for her team against Missouri State during the second quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the University of Texas at San Antonio Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday., March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Credit: Michael Thomas

Credit: Michael Thomas

Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather did all she could to refocus her team after its momentous NCAA victory over Arkansas, and the players themselves had enough inner drive against Missouri State to get the job done.

But something was different when they took the court for the second round at the UTSA Convocation Center on Wednesday.

When they tried to dig deep to come up with the same effort from two days earlier, they discovered they had nothing left in the tank.

ExplorePHOTOS: Wright State vs. Missouri State

“They were physically and emotionally spent from two days ago,” Merriweather said. “They tried, but they just didn’t have it in them.

“We took a huge step, and it’s going to take another huge step to get to the Sweet 16 someday, that’s for sure.”

Fifth-seeded Missouri State pulled away after a close first half and cruised to a 64-39 victory, earning a second straight trip to the Sweet 16 and another clash with top-seeded Stanford.

The Lady Bears (23-2), who have won 19 straight games, beat DePaul and Iowa State in 2019 (the 2020 tourney was cancelled) before falling to Stanford in the regional semifinals.

Merriweather called them a Top-25 team, and their experience certainly showed.

The Bears had a 47-31 rebounding edge, went 8 of 16 on 3′s and held the Raiders to 27.5% shooting.

“Not to take away from their rebounding, but I’d like to think if we were fresh, we’d have been able to give them a better game. Rebounding was THE single most important thing. It’s how we win,” said Merriweather, whose team is seventh in the nation with a plus-12.3 rebound margin per game.

“Our kids have never had an issue with playing hard. There’s nothing that can make me believe it was anything other than they just didn’t have it in them after what they had to put together to beat Arkansas.”

Missouri State guard Elle Ruffridge, left, tries to get the rebound from Wright State's Emani Jefferson, back, Angel Baker, center, and Tyler Frierson, right, during the third quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Missouri State guard Elle Ruffridge, left, tries to get the rebound from Wright State's Emani Jefferson, back, Angel Baker, center, and Tyler Frierson, right, during the third quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Credit: Michael Thomas

Credit: Michael Thomas

The Raiders (19-8) are just the second team in Horizon League history to win an NCAA game, thanks mostly to star guard Angel Baker.

But after averaging 25.7 points in the previous six games and scoring 26 against Arkansas, the 5-foot-8 junior guard was held to 10 points, about eight below her average, and scored just one point over the final 25 minutes.

She finished 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 5 on 3′s.

Though the game didn’t get away until the third quarter, Merriweather could tell the 13th-seeded Raiders were in trouble from the start.

“Angel is usually a good tell-tale. You take a look at her and the type of shot she takes, when that first pull-up jump shot didn’t go in, I said, ‘Oh, boy.’ She starts to push a little. It’s not very fluid. Then Tyler (Frierson) missed a layup, shot it under the rim, and I was like, ‘Ohhhh, geez,’” the fifth-year coach said.

“We took some early hits, gave up an offensive rebound because we got beat to the ball. People don’t really beat us to the ball.”

Leading by five at halftime, the Bears opened up a 36-22 edge with just under five minutes to go.

Brice Calip, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, had five points in the 12-3 run.

Missouri State guard Elle Ruffridge, right, dives for a loss ball against Wright State guard Emani Jefferson, left, during the second quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the University of Texas at San Antonio Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday., March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Missouri State guard Elle Ruffridge, right, dives for a loss ball against Wright State guard Emani Jefferson, left, during the second quarter of a college basketball game in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the University of Texas at San Antonio Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday., March 24, 2021. Missouri State won 64-39. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Credit: Michael Thomas

Credit: Michael Thomas

Jasmine Franklin, the MVC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-league pick, finished the first two quarters with 10 points and eight rebounds and had 11 and 11 for the day.

“They have a lot of talent. They have a hard system to guard with their dribble drive. They isolate you and have terrific scorers like Angel,” Missouri State coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton said.

“Angel is tough. She can create her own shot. She can get downhill, hit pull-up jumpers and 3′s. But Brice was the defensive player of the year in our conference last year, and there’s a reason why. She does a good job of frustrating people. She knows how to play angles and take away the drive.

“With Angel, we weren’t going to hold her to zero points. But Brice did a great job of crowding her and getting in her space, and we wanted to have (players) in the gaps around her. We have gap help. That goes into our family theme. Don’t leave anyone on an island. When Angel was about to get downhill, we closed that gap with the next man over.”

The Raiders have made the last two NCAA tourneys, and Agugua-Hamilton said they’ll be in the 2022 field, too.

“Katrina is a friend of mine, and I’m always rooting for her,” she said. “I’ll text her, like when she won the (Horizon League) championship. She’s done a great job there.

“She’s taken that team (to the NCAA) more than once. And she does a great job recruiting. She’s a great coach, and they’ll be back for sure.”

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