Women’s Basketball: Raiders grind out win over Panthers in HL quarterfinals

Andrew Smith, Sports Editor

Flashy, high-tempo, breakneck are adjectives that have often described the Wright State women’s basketball team this season, especially in the friendly confines of the Nutter Center.

Wednesday night’s matchup against Milwaukee, however, was a gritty – and at times sloppy – defensive struggled that forced the Raiders to adjust to avoid a humiliating first round upset.

Kim Demmings led all players with 25 points, scoring 16 in second half and Tay’ler Mingo added 24 points and six rebounds in a 73-64 win over Milwaukee in the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament.

Tay’ler Mingo scored 24 points and hit important free throws in the final moments Wednesday night to help the Raiders put away the Panthers 73-64.

“It shows that, every now and again, you just have to be able to grind one out,” Raiders head coach Mike Bradbury said. “We had to find a way to win today. This was not our typical game, pace-wise or shooting-the-ball-wise.”

Both teams struggled mightily to get their shots to fall in the first half. WSU missed 34 of its 45 first half field goal attempts and hit only 2-of-14 3-pointers.

The Panthers were only slightly better. UMW went 8-for-32 from the field and was 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Despite the dismal shooting performance, the Raiders clung to a 27-25 lead at halftime, that Demmings said was the result of a strong defensive and rebounding effort. WSU pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and was plus-3 on the glass.

“The only reason we were ahead was defensive stops and rebounds,” Demmings said. “We know that, when we’re not hitting shots, we have to tune it up on defense and that leads to transition points.”

Much of the success the Raiders had in their last meeting against the Panthers – a 94-70 pasting on March 1 – was the defensive effort on Panthers point guard Angela Rodriguez.

Rodriguez committed nine turnovers and made one field goal in the second half of the two team’s last meeting. Bradbury employed a frustrating defensive scheme that called for a healthy amount of trapping against Rodriguez in that contest.

Mingo showed why she was selected to the Horizon League All-Defensive Team against the Panthers. She was tasked with defending UMW’s Angela Rodriguez 1-on-1 for most the evening.

This time around, Mingo was tasked with guarding Rodriguez -who led the Panthers with 17 points on 18 shots and five turnovers – mostly by herself.

Mingo said it was a challenge that she welcomed.

“She’s really, really good and I like the competition. I felt like I wanted to push her past her comfort zone,” said Mingo about Rodriguez. “She’s really smooth with the ball, so I wanted to irritate her a little bit. I live to be on an island. That’s what coach [Bradbury] wanted me to do and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Mingo said Bradbury approached her before the game and told the junior point guard that if she was at her best tonight, Milwaukee would not win.

“I think it was a confidence booster for me, knowing that my coach trusted me and believed in me,” Mingo said.

Wednesday’s game turned out to be the final home game at the Nutter Center this season.

Green Bay trounced 72-55 Valparaiso to advance to the semifinals. The Phoenix will host the final two rounds of the tournament, regardless if they lose to Illinois-Chicago on Friday.

The win moves the Raiders to Green Bay Friday for a rematch against Youngstown State at 6 p.m. The Raiders swept the Penguins during the regular season and handed YSU an 85-70 loss on March 5 at the Beeghly Center.

This time, WSU will play YSU on a neutral floor.

“We’re going to take the same approach as we do for every game and go and prepare, set a plan and if we execute that plan, we’ll like the results,” Demmings said.

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