Catching up with Wright State women’s basketball

Photo courtesy of Wright State Athletics

When I started writing for Horizone, I had noticed that only one of the writers was dedicated to reporting about the women’s basketball scene from the conference. I can see why this is, women’s basketball never gets the reputation that it deserves on campuses while men’s basketball, especially in a non-football conference, takes a majority of the attention due to March Madness and essentially playing at the exact same time as the women. I would love to join Kyle in reporting on the Horizon women’s basketball scene in general, but I really only have enough love (and time) in my life for the Raiders. I entered Horizone with a plan to try to write about both teams on a semi-frequent basis, flipping back and forth when it felt good to do so.

Then the women were almost entirely absent due to COVID. Whoops?

Leading up to two weeks ago, Wright State had only played three games in a two month time span and had taken a total of four Horizon forfeits before they could even play more than one conference game. They have played a total of three home games, one against Xavier, one against D2 Lake Erie, and one against NKU as all other conference home games so far have been cancelled. The non-conference schedule was littered with double digit losses that didn’t feel close very often. Transfers wracked the program as Shamarre Hale and Constance Chaplin headed off to other pastures. In terms of rough starts for a program with a new coach, it’s hard to find a rougher start looking at the resume objectively.

However, this team has shown promise since being able to continue play, and has gotten contributions from all around the bench in the six most recent matches they’ve played. So let’s give a quick recap of the past few before getting in to the contributors.

Dayton 75 – Wright State 65
IUPUI 77 – Wright State 62
Oakland 62 – Wright State 51
Wright State 72 – UDM 56
NKU 77 – Wright State 59
NKU 82 – Wright State 79

The game against Dayton was one where I figured that the Raiders were going to be dead and buried. Dayton’s women’s program is a perennial NCAA tournament bid, constantly near the top echelon of the league. This Gem City Jam, something that last happened under Mike Bradbury in 2014, has been dominated by Dayton 36-4 all time and at the five minute mark before the half, it looked like that was going to continue as the Flyers pressured the Raiders with their size. With a score of 32-17, Wright State battled back all the way up the half to take it within ten, then slowly chipped away at the Flyers lead until this happened:

With just under four minutes, the Raiders had very nearly tasted their first D1 victory, and it was a Gem City Jam no less. Unfortunately for this squad, they went dead cold at the worst time, only making a three in the final second as Dayton stretched the lead back into the double digits. For my Dayton-hating heart, it was something I didn’t know I wanted until I very nearly got to have it.

The next match wasn’t going to be any easier as Wright State visited IUPUI, the preseason favorite. IUPUI got off to a hot start early and kept the Raiders from scoring almost anything, creating a twenty point deficit by halftime. By the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Raiders were down and out, but they fought back the deficit late with 23 points to IUPUI’s 13 and settled the score 77-62. While the Raiders shot well in the final quarter, the Jaguars nearly outrebounded them 2:1 throughout the game, which the Raiders would tune during their next COVID break so it would not happen again.

Wright State travelled up to Michigan and took on Oakland and Detroit Mercy. Against Oakland, both teams struggled to get points through the basket, but Wright State was making good defensive stands with 7 blocks and steals on the night. The difference maker was an unusually bad night from behind the arc, going 3-21 for 14%, while Oakland had 9 fall in.

Wright State took to Calihan Hall to battle Detroit Mercy, a squad also wracked with COVID problems and forfeits, also under a new coach, and also looking for their first D1 win. The first half wasn’t terribly exciting, both teams were shooting poorly and the score was essentially tied by the end of the half. It was still anyone’s game, someone just needed to get the willpower to take it. In the third quarter, Wright State exploded and went 11-17, including 6 from three, and took over the game with an 18 point lead. The Raiders never allowed Mercy to get back in as they matched each other’s scoring in the fourth to close that game in the win column.

Last but not least was the home and away matches against NKU, who had recently had an emergence as one of the best squads in the HLWBB scene. The away match came first and the Raiders kept the Norse within reach at all times. Going into the fourth, they had nearly matched the Norse step for step, only allowing a 7 point run in the second to separate them. However, similar to the Dayton game, the women could not get past NKU’s defense in the fourth quarter, only scoring 8 points in that final stretch to take the game away from their reach.

The home match showcased what Wright State can be when the squad is firing on all cylinders. Wright State went down 50-38 at the half against an NKU squad that just couldn’t seem to miss, but the Raiders fought back the deficit all the way up to the final buzzer, getting within a single point once again to put everyone on the edge of their seats. With 5 seconds left on the clock to make a shot, Jada Roberson’s off-balance jumper fell just to the left and rolled off the rim to prevent overtime in what was the Raiders’ highest scoring game of the season.

The Raiders have really been able to shine these last few games, so I’d like to discuss how individual members are doing based on those. I’ll be going through the key contributors and their statistics over the last six, along with some thoughts on how they’ve been performing.

Diamond Stokes – 4.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 57%
Stokes has been more of a bench performer, but has been decently consistent underneath the rim when she’s able to get free. At 6’3″, she’s a tall presence but not a very imposing one, as most of her outings have been riddled with foul trouble. The sophomore could see some more time if she can prove to Hoffman that she can defend without getting in trouble, but as of now she’s been a good swap for one of the other forwards off the bench.

Makira Webster – 3.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 29%
Makira Webster was brought in early by Coach Hoffman following the exits of Angel Baker and company as a transfer from Wabash College, a DIII school in Indiana. While at Wabash, Webster didn’t average more than a few minutes of game time and didn’t really get a chance to show off her skills, so it was one of the interesting moves that Hoffman considering how quickly Webster was added after she took up the position. So far, Webster has been given a chance to display what she’s about but has failed to impress. While averaging around 20 minutes of game time, Webster has only had a high of 8 points via the Detroit Mercy matchup, with no other stats or performance across the floor to back the time she’s seeing.

Edecia (Deesh) Beck – 10.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 36%
Another one of Hoffman’s transfers hailing previously from Ohio’s program, Beck has started to shine after a not-so-stellar non-conference showing. While taking position in the post, Beck has been able to muscle in shots from underneath and create a rebounding presence the Raiders were sorely lacking. The rematch against NKU saw the transfer collect her first double-double of Beck’s career with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The only thing holding Beck back has been turnovers, which average higher than anyone else on the team.

Channing Chappell – 5.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 32%
Chappell’s statistics are buoyed a little bit by their showing against Dayton where they put up 13 points against UD’s formidable squad, and nine of those points came from deep where she likes to shoot them. That said, her spread against the Horizon is leaving a little to be desired, as her most recent showing of 7 points against NKU is the next highest. Chappell has been boom or bust for the Raiders. When Chappell is on, she is able to find buckets from anywhere on the court but where she shines is ridiculous back court shots from a snap pass. Her defense cause problems as she is able to dig for steal after steal, and she has plenty of movement to grab a stray rebound. When Chappell is off, nothing wants to fall into the bucket and she tends to rack up fouls like crazy, such as against NKU in their stadium. Chappell’s defense is consistently great and she has found open lanes to work with, so with a little more practice, I’m certain the sophomore can shine on this offense again.

Jada Roberson – 14.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 42%
Jada Roberson has been part of a 1-2 punch for the Raiders with Destyne Jackson. Roberson’s speed has allowed her to beat her defenders over to the rim and pull up for a layup or a jumper, if the rest of the team starts to collapse on her. If she misses, she’s the one to collect her own miss a good amount of the time, including a possession against NKU where she collected it four separate times, fighting past the defense on each attempt. On the defensive side of the ball, Roberson has a eight game steal streak, averaging around two a game, and a good number of rebounds where she came from nowhere to take the ball away. Roberson is a threat on the floor you cannot take your eyes off of as the speed she possesses is hard to match.

Destyne Jackson – 14.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 37%
Destyne Jackson has earned her points the old fashioned way: grit and work. Teams have honed in on Jackson’s ability on the floor, but she has an ability to sink incredibly contested shots, something that the Raiders have used to their advantage. With her ability to shoot nearly anywhere on the floor, Jackson can shoot over defenses that try to box her in, and her turnover ratio is the lowest on the team. The sophomore has been the key to the offense and has been putting in a consistent double digit effort throughout the season.

Jada Wright* – 9.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 47%
As an aside, any of the asterisked players have only played in four of the six games in one way or another, presumably due to health and safety protocols. Similarly to Diamond Stokes, Jada Wright has been a dominant under the rim, much to the other team’s detriment, but cannot find a way to defend without drawing a foul. Unlike Stokes however, Wright has put in block after block, sometimes coming out of nowhere to smack the ball out from behind a would-be attacker. Wright has also notched two double doubles this season, a mark she hasn’t done in her career leading up to this season.

KK White* – 7.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 35%
White has been the go-to sixth for the Raiders, and has been valuable from the three point line when the ball needs to leave Jackson or Roberson’s hands. Quietly effective, she has been checking in at least three buckets each game but is seemingly not one to drive at the rim, instead gunning for jumpers. Out of a sixth man, White has been putting up a respectable effort from the bench most nights.

The Wright State women will return to action with a two game spread at home, finally, against Green Bay and Milwaukee on January 27th and January 29th. A well-deserved break from the travel may be everything the Raiders need to start breaking through the ceiling of the Horizon and earn some wins. Looking forward to getting to watch the matches this week!

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