Slow start leads to loss for WSU women

FAIRBORN — Maybe the Wright State women should play the second half first in big games.

Much like a recent game against first-place Green Bay, the Raiders on Wednesday got off to a miserable start against second-place Cleveland State, leading to a large deficit before staging a second-half rally.

This time it was an 11-point loss, 72-61, after dropping the Jan. 7 game against Green Bay by 12 points.

“I wish we could play the first half over again,” Coach Kari Hoffman said. “We did not defend as a team at all. That’s what I was on them about. It was just really frustrating. We had basically one effort on that end and we were done. That’s not how you play good team defense. It’s just frustrating that against the best teams in the league, we aren’t dictating. We are not taking care of the things that we’ve coached them up all week (on) and we didn’t play our best. ”

Wright State trailed by as many as 22 in the first half after shooting just 37 percent overall and 23.1 percent from 3-point range. That was exacerbated by the Vikings (16-3 overall, 7-1 Horizon League), who shot 73.1 percent in the first half and scored 34 points in the paint in taking a 49-30 halftime lead. They made 11 of 13 shots in the first quarter for a sizzling 84.6 percent.

“We played pretty poor offensively, too,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t shoot well. This was a game we knew we had to shoot well. It felt like in the first half we were living and dying by every shot and that’s simply because we weren’t defending. When you’re not getting stops, you’re living and dying by every three that you take. That’s not a fun way to play.”

The Raiders trailed Green Bay by 21 at halftime and much like that game, the WSU coaching staff on Wednesday tweaked some things and what was a 23-point lead early in the third quarter was whittled down to 63-47 after three and as few as 11 (65-54) after a jumper from Layne Ferrell with 6:35 left in the fourth.

During the same span, the Raiders defended a lot better and held the Vikings to just 23 second-half points.

“We fixed it,” Hoffman said. “We changed our game plan a little bit at halftime. They did a great job adjusting and I was proud of them for that. To spot them 23 … in the last two quarters, it was awesome. If we could redo those first two quarters over again, I think it would be a different result.”

Most of Cleveland State’s points in the first half were from “two feet” as Hoffman said post-game.

“We changed that and applied that pressure later on in the game,” she said. “We turned them over, we got jump balls. We took them out of what they wanted to do because we had more pressure in the paint. Having a little bit more resistance in the paint, getting some help in there, throwing some guards in there.”

After Ferrell’s bucket, the Vikings built the lead back up to 16 with 2:41 left before a Lauren Scott three-pointer trimmed it to 72-59 with 2:17 left. Kacee Baumhower made a pair of late free throws for the final margin. Ferrell scored a team-high 15 for the Raiders (11-8 overall, 5-3 HL), while Scott added 10, Baumhower nine, and Alexis Hutchison eight. Jada Tate came off the bench and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

Much like the Green Bay loss, Hoffman said there was plenty of good to take away from the loss to CSU.

“When we challenged them at halftime to play better together and show some team defense, we went out there and we did it,” she said. “We dictated the rest of the game. We held them from scoring. They’re a really hard team to guard. We’re obviously undersized. But we dictated the third and fourth quarters. That’s the good I take away from it.”

Hoffman also loves her team’s resiliency.

“There’s a lot of fight in this team and I love coaching them for that reason,” she said. “We’re never out of any game. It feels like we’re in every game and that makes it really, really fun. I just wish we could come out on the other end on some of these big ones.”

Wright State is at Northern Kentucky at 4 p.m. Saturday and then visits Milwaukee and Green Bay for games on Jan. 26 and 28 before closing the month with a home game against Oakland Jan. 31.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.