Amele Ngwafang equaled a career high with 25 points, while Brittni Moore added 15 points and 12 rebounds as Cleveland State pulled away in the second half for an 87-49 Senior Day blowout of Wright State on Saturday afternoon at the Wolstein Center.
With the victory, the first-place Vikings improved to 26-3 overall and 16-2 in the Horizon League. WSU, which has played increasingly-competitive basketball over the last several weeks (three of their four wins have arrived over the last seven games, including results against Northern Kentucky and Milwaukee), dropped to 5-23 overall and 4-14 in the HL.
In contrast to the first meeting of the season between the squads, a 103-72 Vikings win in Fairborn, OH on January 20th that saw WSU connect for a school-record 18 three pointers, CSU managed to hold Kari Hoffman’s visiting squad at bay beyond the arc. Emily Chapman hit two triples on the way to a team-best ten points, but the Raiders collectively only managed an 8-for-28 line from deep.
Seven of those eight makes came in the first half, as Wright State jumped out to 13-9 and 15-11 leads midway through the first quarter. Chapman hit both of her threes in succession midway through the second quarter to pull Wright State within 34-31 at the media timeout, and a second-quarter stalemate resulted in a 38-31 CSU lead at halftime.
Ultimately though, the Vikings overwhelmed the Raiders through two of their usual staples: aggressive perimeter defense and post play, with the latter element facilitated by the fact that Wright State doesn’t currently have a true post player on its roster. Six first-quarter steals helped stem WSU’s early momentum and put the home team in command; in all, CSU forced 19 turnovers and outscored the Raiders 29-7 on takeaways.
Ngwafang and Moore were nearly automatic buckets, as they took turns backing down a series of undersized defenders on the way to combining for a 15-for-24 rate from the floor. Moore knocked down three three-pointers, all in the first 14 minutes of the game (one opened the contest’s scoring, in fact), but most of their output contributed to a staggering 52-18 Vikings advantage on points in the paint.
Nine of Ngwafang’s total came during a 22-8 third quarter that saw Cleveland State wrestle a reasonably-close game into rout territory, and Deja Williams polished things off with an eight-point fourth quarter that saw 27 CSU points in all. On the other side of the court, Wright State shot just 7-for-29 from the floor in the second half, 1-for-14 of that from three-point range.
Destiny Leo added 12 points for the Vikings, while Williams put together one of her best games of the last few weeks, finishing with 11 points and a game-high six assists. Faith Burch returned from injury for her first game action since January 28th at Oakland and scored five late points, along with seven rebounds, in five minutes on the floor.
After appropriately honoring senior stars Ngwafang, Moore, Williams, Julia Hintz, Barbara Zieniewska, Aminata Ly and Gabriella Smith, Cleveland State will now turn its attention towards the final weekend of the regular season and what has developed into, essentially, a Horizon League regular season championship game on Thursday at Green Bay. The Vikings and Phoenix – which is 15-2 in the conference with a game at Youngstown State scheduled for Sunday – are the only two teams with a chance at the crown remaining, and the winner of that contest will likely be the top seed for the HL tournament, which begins on February 28th (though both teams have clinched a bye through that first round). CSU then closes the regular season at Milwaukee on Saturday.