FAIRBORN — The Wright State Raiders knew they had to start quick and shoot well against the Horizon League’s standard bearer Sunday afternoon.
The Raiders made just two field goals in the first quarter — both less than four minutes into the game — and trailed by 21 at halftime before a spirited comeback came up a bit short in a 75-63 loss to Green Bay.
WSU trimmed the lead to seven points late, but Green Bay — which has won or shared 22 Midwestern Collegiate Conference/Horizon League regular-season titles — did enough at the end to hang on.
“We knew we had to shoot well to beat these guys,” Coach Kari Hoffman said. “That was the story of our preparation. We shot great shots early on. We just didn’t knock them down. That’s the really frustrating part.”
The Raiders (10-7, 4-2) had myriad open looks from the outside and close-in, but nothing would fall as they made 2 of 16 in the first quarter before shooting 50 percent in the second. At the other end, the Phoenix (12-3, 5-0) made 8 of 16 in the first quarter and 9 of 14 in the second.
“We’re getting what we want offensively,” Hoffman said. “They just didn’t fall. There was a couple that even went halfway down and popped back out. It was just like we couldn’t buy a bucket today.”
At halftime the Raiders were, um, encouraged by Hoffman and cashed in on their opportunities.
“I definitely let our players hear it at halftime,” Hoffman said. “We challenged them at halftime. Our team responded. They were more focused.”
Down 23 after a three-point play by Cassie Schiltz with 8:51 left in the third, the Raiders went on a 13-2 run that included a pair of three-pointers by Kacee Baumhower and one by Alexis Hutchison which made the score 50-38 with 1:49 left. The Phoenix finished with a 5-2 spurt to take a 55-40 lead into the fourth and scored the first bucket in the fourth quarter to lead 57-40.
But the Raiders weren’t done.
They scored six straight to make it 57-46 after a pair of free throws by Baumhower with 7:38 left. After two free throws by Green Bay’s Bailey Butler, the Raiders closed to within seven after another three-pointer from Baumhower, and one from Makiya Miller with 6:27 left.
Green Bay stretched it back to 13 with 3:32 left and the Raiders were unable to trim the lead back to single digits. WSU had a 39-30 second-half advantage that was sparked by an improved defense — which forced six turnovers — and the offense Hoffman expected to see.
“That’s the fight in these guys,” Hoffman said. “They’re competitors and they’ve proven that from day one so I’m proud of them for that. I can live with that result because of the way we finished. But it’s frustrating that we didn’t show up the entire game that way.”
Baumhower finished with 19 points, while Rachel Loobie added 16, and Hutchison 11 for the Raiders. Layne Ferrell had five points and was active all over the court, grabbing eight rebounds, to go with five assists, three steals, and two blocks. After shooting just 12.5 percent in the first quarter, the Raiders shot 37.5 percent in the second half including 9 of 17 in the fourth.
“We were just us,” Hoffman said of the second half. “We turned them over a little bit. I think they were looking a little tired too. They were taking some tough shots that they made in the first two quarters that they didn’t make coming out of halftime. It wasn’t anything new. It was just a better execution of our game plan. Just being a little bit more physical and making them take the shots that we want them to take was important.”
Green Bay was 50th in the nation with a 15.4 scoring margin and the 12-point loss was tied for the third lowest margin of victory for the Phoenix. It beat UIC 64-56, No. 23 Washington State 59-48, and No. 22 Creighton 65-53.
“I do think we have the firepower to play with them,” Hoffman said. “We have the competitiveness to play with them. You can’t make mistakes and we did make mistakes tonight.”
The Raiders visit 3-11 IUPUI at 7 p.m. Thursday and then host 13-3 Cleveland State at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17.
Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.