Wright State women’s basketball coach Katrina Merriweather didn’t read too much into a few surprising non-conference results posted by Green Bay, which has won 19 straight Horizon League titles.
Yes, a 30-point loss at South Dakota State and a 5-5 record certainly have raised some eyebrows, but the Phoenix also has shown it’s capable of making a run at a 20th consecutive crown by knocking off Wisconsin and Dayton.
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“Green Bay had an early injury. They’re fine. They’re Green Bay, and they’re always going to be Green Bay,” said Merriweather, whose squad opens league play with road games at IUPUI on Friday and UIC on Sunday. “We’ve got to know we can play good teams and fight and figure out a way to win against tough opponents.”
The Raiders (8-4), picked third in the league preseason poll, had to raise their level of play this year to be legitimate contenders, and they appear to be doing just that thanks to a pair of newcomers making an instant impact.
Michal Miller, a 5-foot-7 junior-college transfer, was named MVP of the Manhattan Invitational earlier this month and is the team’s leading scorer with a 12.6 average.
And Angel Baker, a 5-8 freshman, is third in scoring at 10.5 and first in assists with 35. She’s been named the conference freshman of the week twice and player of the week once.
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Both are a notch or two above the typical Wright State recruit and have changed the way the Raiders play.
“Michal and Angel are the reasons why we put in a ball-screen offense this year,” Merriweather said.
Miller was pursued by Power-5 conference schools out of Michigan City, Ind., and signed with Arizona. After one season there, she transferred to Trinity Valley in Texas.
Merriweather, an Indianapolis native, had always had her eye on Miller and sold her on the Raiders.
“When I asked her what the most important thing was to her (in picking a college), she said, ‘I have to have a great relationship with my coach,’” Merriweather said. “I’m fairly confident when it comes to recruiting and explaining to kids how special our program is, if they just give me the opportunity, they’ll realize how great it is, too. Ultimately, that’s what happened.”
Merriweather has high praise for Miller, saying she’s a better all-around player than both Chelsea Welch and Kim Demmings, former Raiders who were Horizon League players of the year.
“She can handle the ball. She can pass. She can make 3’s. She has a great pull-up. She can get to the rim. She is extremely skilled,” Merriweather said.
Her explosiveness was on display when she scored the team’s first 12 points in a 93-64 win at Hofstra.
The only thing holding her back are chronic foot issues. She has abnormalities in the bone structure of both feet, which become increasingly sore the longer she’s on the floor.
“She’s an offensive powerhouse. We put it in her hands and ask her to make something happen, and she usually does,” Merriweather said. “But she’s always going to be in pain.”
The Raiders had to win a recruiting battle with Xavier and others for Baker, an Indianapolis product. She’s already had a 24-point game against Kent State.
“Angel Baker is the young version of Michal Miller without any injuries,” Merriweather said.
The two have helped make the Raiders deeper than probably any team in the conference. They need quality back-ups, too, because a handful of players in addition to Miller have had lingering ailments this season.
“We’ve got reserves that are very, very talented,” Merriweather.