The Wright State University women’s basketball team saw its Horizon League conference tournament run end in the quarterfinals.
Cleveland State’s Mariah White scored a game-high 29 points as the sixth-seeded Vikings upset the third-seeded Raiders 63-52 in a Horizon League Championship quarterfinal game on Thursday night at the Nutter Center.
For now, they wait. Wright State’s postseason fate now hinges on a potential at-large bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
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“I’m so proud of this group,” said Raiders coach Katrina Merriweather. “They’re young and inexperienced. We’ve been on a roller-coaster ride all season. Of course, we had all hoped in the last five games we had overcome that. Tonight we missed some shots and it made it very difficult for us to win.”
Wright State junior Tyler Frierson had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Raiders, who shot just 32 percent from the field, including 2-for-16 on 3-pointers, against the Vikings’ 2-3 zone.
“It’s been a long time since no one shot the ball well,” Merriweather said. “As frustrating as that is, the reality is that no one is more upset and more hurt than those kids in that locker room. There’s not much I can say that’s worse than what they feel.”
Wright State won both regular season games against the Vikings. The difference in the game, Merriweather said, was Cleveland State freshman post player Aminata Ly, who clogged the paint with her 6-foot-4 frame and even longer wingspan. She had four blocks in 29 minutes.
Ly played just 14 minutes in the previous two games.
“It’s the same zone that they played when we beat them the first two times,” Merriweather said. “The difference is (Ly) played 29 minutes. It was very uncharacteristic of our post players to catch the ball and try to pass it out. For our guards to not shoot pull-up jump shots with their great form and quick release, I think it mattered that she was in there jumping around and swinging at shots. We can’t duplicate that in practice. We don’t have anyone that’s like her. For as good as we are at the 5-spot, she’s different. I think, without question and despite White’s 29 points, she was the player of the game.”
The Raiders (19-12) quickly jumped out to a 9-2 lead and extended its advantage to 15-9 after the first quarter. The Vikings stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring the Raiders 16-9. Cleveland State took a 25-24 halftime lead on a 3-pointer by Jade Ely right before the buzzer sounded.
Wright State cut the lead to four at 44-40 on a layup by Frierson with 8:19 remaining, but wouldn’t score again for nearly four minutes.
Cleveland State went on a 13-0 run, including eight points from White, to grab a 57-40 lead it would never relinquish.
The Raiders used a full-court press midway through the fourth quarter that caused problems for the Vikings, but they couldn’t get any closer than nine points.
Cleveland State (21-10) advanced to face top-seeded IUPUI (21-8) at noon Monday at Farmers Life Coliseum in Indianapolis. No. 2 seed Green Bay (18-12) will play fourth-seeded Northern Kentucky (20-11) in the other semifinal game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The championship game will be held at noon Tuesday.
Now, the Raiders will wait to see if they were selected to play in the WNIT. The second-place team in the Horizon League typically earns a bid to the tournament. The Raiders tied for second in the regular season standings, but were the third-seed in the Horizon League tournament due to tiebreakers.
“I think it’s close,” Merriweather said. “We haven’t thought about it or talked about it. We’re probably right there. It will probably take a little basketball grace with a few people turning it down for us to get a chance to get in. I do think towards the end we were playing our best basketball and hopefully that will matter a lot more than how we started.”
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