The road back to the NCAA Tournament began Tuesday night for the Wright State University women’s basketball program.
A year after winning a school-record 27 games, the young Raiders must navigate their way through the Horizon League tournament to get back to the big dance.
The third-seeded Raiders (19-11) got off to a great start Tuesday night, cruising to an 83-47 victory over No. 10 UIC in a Horizon League tournament first-round game on Tuesday night at the Nutter Center.
Senior Michal Miller had a game-high 16 points and sophomore Angel Baker added 10 points and five assists in the victory. Horizon League Freshman of the Year Shamarre Hale had 10 points and eight rebounds, while junior Tyler Frierson had nine points and seven rebounds.
Wright State won its fifth straight game overall and its 17th straight over the Flames, a streak that began in 2013. The Raiders caused 20 turnovers and outrebounded the Flames 50-36 — two areas that led to a combined 48 points.
“We obviously started pretty slow,” said Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather. “A lot of credit goes to our second five. They came in, got us rolling offensively, got some key stops. The first five came back in and they were refocused. We were able to pull away in the second half, mainly behind our defense and rebounding.”
The Raiders finished the regular season 13-5 in the Horizon League, tied with Green Bay for second in the conference standings. The Raiders were seeded third based on conference tiebreakers, missing out on the coveted double-bye awarded to the top-two teams in the standings at the end of the regular season.
However, thanks to a change in the tournament’s format, the Raiders will stay on their home floor. The lowest-seeded teams will host first round and quarterfinal games, meaning the Raiders own home-court advantage in the first two rounds as the third seed.
“I think it’s an advantage,” Merriweather said. “Any time you get to sleep in your own bed, I think that that’s really good. For us and this team, despite Michal being a senior, it’s only her second year here. We’re young and inexperienced. The more games we can play, the better. I can’t imagine how we’d look (on March 9) if we had to sit for eight days. I’m actually really happy with the result with this particular team this year with the way it’s set up.”
Baker started the first half 0-9, but found her stroke in the third quarter.
The sophomore scored 10 of the Raiders first 14 points to start the period, giving the Raiders a 50-30 lead.
“I think what’s important for her and Michal to understand is that they bring so much more than that,” Merriweather said. “There’s so many things that you can do during the course of the game that you don’t have to be defined by what you’re shooting and that’s what everyone kept telling Angel — me, the staff, her teammates, you could hear them encouraging her.”
The Flames (3-27) cut the lead to 13 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but wouldn’t get any closer. The Raiders held them without a field goal for the final 4:21.
The Raiders advanced to play sixth-seeded Cleveland State (20-10) in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Nutter Center. The winner will advance to the semifinals on Monday at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
“The most important thing is to rest them and get them off their feet, make sure they see the trainer,” Merriweather said. “It just gives us an opportunity to settle and that’s the benefit of playing at home.”
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.