Not to repeat earlier articles, but Wright State (3-19, 2-10 HL) is playing very good basketball and now the Raiders are showing it in the win column. After keeping Youngstown State close in their home stadium before going down double digits in the 76-60 loss, the Raiders went to visit Robert Morris and absolutely throttled the Colonials 83-49 to pick up their second conference win. This squad is not the same as the one being bullied in the non-conference, but picking up their defense to go with their lights-out shooting offense will be key to winning the match against the Norse.
Northern Kentucky (13-8, 7-5 HL) is trying to keep pace with the juggernauts in the top four of the conference. The Norse similarly split the road trip to the eastern side of the conference, losing a close call to the Penguins and taking care of business against the Colonials. Led by potential Player of the Year Lindsey Duvall, who has shown to be a one-woman wrecking crew in the past, the Norse walk into the Nutter Center looking to cleanly sweep the Raiders for the season and move on.
The Norse and Raiders kicked off the match as close as can be, going shot for shot throughout the first quarter, ending the ten minute mark with a score of 18-15 after a beautiful last second layup by Bolender was waived off by milliseconds. As both teams jostled for position, there was a consistent effort by the Raiders on the defensive end that was paying dividends.
“This was what we’ve seen from our team for the last month, we’ve been playing this way and it wasn’t a surprise to us. I think now we’re just putting the defensive end together,” Coach Hoffman remarked about the overall effort throughout.
The Raiders also found some life in play that they had not been relying on: points in the paint. Taking advantage of the Norse’s pressure on the outside, Wright State turned on their dribble drive and fought for some of the layups underneath. By the time the half ended, the Raiders held a slim 40-36 margin on NKU.
Once the second half began, Wright State put in 7 unanswered points to force NKU to regroup. It would be the last time the Norse would meaningfully sniff the lead, as the Raiders would maintain their ten point lead throughout the rest of the half. Even when the squad had Bolender foul out on the 26 foul night from a very suspect call during the last minute push by the Norse, which did see some panic moments, Wright State kept its cool, sunk the needed free throws and put the Norse down for good 80-70. This splits the series for Wright State, is their first D1 home win since last year’s match against UDM, and is the second win in a row for Hoffman’s squad. Most importantly, the win comes against that team down south.
“We’ve trusted the process and we’ve trusted each other,” Kacee Baumhower remarked about the team chemistry. “The way we play and how hard we play has come from us losing and losing and losing and sticking and staying in the fight and putting in extra shots, and I think we’ve now come to the part of the season where all of it’s paying off and we’re trusting each other.”
For the Raiders, Bryce Nixon led the charge with 23 points, only 3 of which came from the signature sniper shot beyond the arc. Kacee Baumhower put in 14 points and led the team in rebounds with 8. Emily Chapman put up 12 points and brought in four important steals that pushed the momentum away from the Norse. Cara VanKempen, who put up 9 points, was Coach Hoffman’s key to the offense, setting up great ball screens. Isabelle Bolender put in 8 points before fouling out trying to pull in a pass, drawing a lot of ire from the home court fans and Coach Hoffman.
When asked about the referees after the match and the worry we had that Coach Hoffman was going to get T’d up, Hoffman let us in on a secret.
“I’ve never had a technical in my career, and I’m proud of that.”
Northern Kentucky had five players in double digits, a lot of which came from foul shots where the team shot 21-34, and was led by Ivy Turner’s 17 points. The Norse also pulled in 17 offensive rebounds, a statistic that has been consistent against the Raiders, but those extra possessions were held by the Raiders defense who only allowed their rival to shoot 34% on the day, including a 13% third quarter.
“We need to shore up [the rebound] a little bit, but I’m just so proud of them for keeping up a ten point lead the entire game,” Coach Hoffman beamed.
Wright State’s women continues homestead play against IUPUI (12-9, 8-4 HL) on Saturday, February 5th at 1:00 pm.