Wright State recorded the first women’s NCAA tournament win in program history on Monday – and took on the only team to beat No. 1 seed UConn this year.
The No. 13 Seed Raiders disrupted No. 4 Arkansas 66-62 at the Alamo Regional, making them one of three double-digit seeds to win during Monday’s day session. In the Mercado Regional, No. 12 Belmont defeated No. 5 Gonzaga 64-57 and No. 11 BYU defeated No. 6 Rutgers 69-66. In Sunday’s first round games, the highest seeds were 16-0.
Wright State’s exasperation is the first time since 2012 – when No. 4 Georgia fell to No. 13 Marist – to lose a top-four seed in the first round of the women’s tournament. Junior guard Angel Baker led Wright State with 26 points and 12 rebounds, including a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go that turned out to be the match winner.
This is Wright State’s third women’s NCAA tournament; the Raiders lost in the first round in 2014 and 2019. This season, the Raiders dropped their last two regular season games to Green Bay, but then won the Horizon League tournament and secured an automatic bid.
“I think we needed what happened to Green Bay to bring us back to reality a little bit,” said Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather, who thought her team was feeling a little overconfident. ‘I think it helped us refocus. They’ve been stuck ever since.
“Playing Arkansas is not an easy task; they are a great team with great attacking power. I think we just stayed true to who we are and didn’t try to do anything special.”
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said he hadn’t prepared his team well enough, but gave credit to Wright State for being “clearly the better team from tip to buzzer.”
Arkansas beat UConn – the top seed in the River Walk Regional – 90-87 on Jan. 28. But the Razorbacks had a tough end to the season as they were upset by Ole Miss in the second round of the SEC tournament and then fell into the first round NCAA tournament. The Razorbacks were a strong offensive team for most of the season, holding 60 and 62 points in their last two games.
[Wright State] opened in the zone, showing how badly I had prepared, “said neighbors.” We hadn’t worked on a zone in a few weeks. I didn’t think they would play it; they did. It bothered us. I’ve been doing a really bad job for the past two weeks, for the past three weeks, so that we peaked at the right time. I think we peaked too soon.
“I’ve asked so, so many of these mid-year kids trying to get to this point, that I forgot to focus on the finish line. I’ve apologized for that. This is going to be a summer of ‘woulda” , shoulda, coulda. ‘ We’re going to do that all summer when we watch this movie. “
Arkansas was led by 27 points of the Chelsea Dungee upper guard; she is expected to be a first round in the WNBA draft on April 15.
Merriweather, whose father runs a successful AAU program in Indianapolis, played collegiate in Cincinnati. As a young assistant at Purdue in the mid-2000s, she was involved in violation recruiting and then left the college game for a few years.
“When you accept that kind of position, you accept the responsibility that comes with it,” Merriweather told Dayton Daily News in 2016. “I tried to help people and be a good person, but my job was up to me and I didn’t do it right.”
She returned as an assistant to Wright State in 2010 and then became head coach in 2016. Now she has led the Raiders to the biggest win in program history.
“I think we love the idea of a David against Goliath,” said Merriweather. “And the chance to win games that people think we shouldn’t do based on our seeding. I think Angel Baker is one of the best guards in the country. I know people might be surprised that they are in Wright State is, but there are a lot of really good guards in the country. It’s all about recruiting and identifying the players that are best for your system. And every now and then you get an Angel Baker at Wright State. “
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