Women’s Basketball: Raiders challenge Penguins for share of first place in HL

Andrew Smith, Sports Editor

When the Wright State women’s basketball team takes the court Wednesday to challenge conference-leader Youngstown State, it will be the first time the Raiders have seen the Nutter Center floor in 24 days for an official game.

The Raiders (16-6, 5-2) capped off a four-game road trip Saturday with a 77-74 win over Illinois-Chicago. The victory pulled WSU into a momentary tie for second place with Green Bay (13-7, 6-2) – who defeated Valparaiso on Monday night – and to within a game of the first place Penguins (10-10, 6-1).

“This is by far the most balanced the league has been,” head coach Mike Bradbury said. “Every night you go out there, it’s going to be tough.”

YSU lost its first conference game of the season Saturday to Cleveland State in an 84-80 decision for the Vikings. The Penguins led by eight at halftime and by as much as 11 early in the second half. CSU responded down the stretch, holding YSU to 35 percent shooting in the second half and limiting the Penguins to only five free throw attempts.

The Penguins’ loss, coupled with the Raiders’ fifth win in their last seven games, means Wednesday’s game will be for a share of first place in the Horizon League.

Despite the importance in the conference standings, guard Kim Demmings said the Raiders are not placing added emphasis on the game against YSU.

Less than 24 hours before Wright State takes the court against conference-leader Youngstown State, the Raiders completed a final practice Tuesday afternoon.

“I guess every game we treat it like it’s a big game, so this one is just another big game to us,” Demmings said.

Tipoff between the Raiders and Penguins is scheduled for noon Wednesday at the Nutter Center.

Stopping Schlegel a focal point for Raiders’ defense

If the Raiders are to defeat the Penguins, containing YSU’s Heidi Schlegel will have to be a part of WSU’s winning formula.

The 6-foot junior is averaging 19.6 points and 7.8 rebounds through 20 games. Schlegel is shooting over 79 percent from the free throw line and over 43 percent from the field.

During the first half of the conference schedule, the Raiders have struggled at times against skilled forwards. Cleveland State’s Imani Gordon (30 points and 14 rebounds), Oakland’s Bethany Watterworth (24 points on 10-of-16 shooting) and UIC’s Ruvanna Campbell (22 points and 15 rebounds) gave WSU fits on defense.

Bradbury said limiting Schlegel’s offensive output will be equally challenging.

“It’s tough, because she present a multitude of problems. She scores on the block, she makes a high percentage from the 3-point line and she can drive it. She scores in every way possible, so it’s difficult to have much success against her. You just have to try and make her be uncomfortable and [make her] do things that she doesn’t like to do,” Bradbury said.

Largest crowd of the season expected against Penguins

The game against YSU will mark the Raiders 11th home game of the season, but in terms of the number of fans expected in attendance, the atmosphere around tipoff will be anything but ordinary.

Working in conjunction with the Education and Hoops Day program, Associate Director of Marketing and Promotions Brandon Hays said Monday that about 2,700 grade-school children are expected to attend Wednesday’s game.

“There will be some added motivation there, but we’re used to all types of crowds, so we kind of got used to being there for each other more than anything,” guard Tay’ler Mingo said. “It will be fun having a bigger crowd, but for the most part, we know how to handle ourselves.”

For the season, the Raiders women’s basketball team is averaging 459 fans per game, according to WSU’s athletics’ website. A crowd of nearly 3,000 would equal more than 65 percent of the total fans that have watched the Raiders at home this season through their first 10 games.

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