Wright State posted the first women’s NCAA tournament victory in program history Monday — and did it against the only team to beat No. 1 seed UConn this year.
The No. 13 seed Raiders upset No. 4 Arkansas 66-62 in the Alamo Regional, making them one of three double-digit seeds to win during Monday’s daytime session. In the Mercado Regional, No. 12 Belmont beat No. 5 Gonzaga 64-57, and No. 11 BYU defeated No. 6 Rutgers 69-66. In Sunday’s first-round games, the higher seeds were 16-0.
Wright State’s upset is the first time since 2012 — when No. 4 Georgia fell to No. 13 Marist — that a top-four seed has lost in the first round of the women’s tournament. Junior guard Angel Baker led Wright State with 26 points and 12 rebounds, including a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left that proved to be the game winner.
This is Wright State’s third women’s NCAA tournament appearance; the Raiders lost in the first round in 2014 and 2019. This season, the Raiders dropped their last two regular-season games to Green Bay, but then won the Horizon League tournament and secured an automatic bid.
“I think we needed what happened with Green Bay to bounce us back into reality a little bit,” Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather said of thinking her team was feeling a bit overconfident. “I do think it helped refocus us. They’ve been locked in ever since.
“Playing Arkansas is no easy task; they are a great team with great offensive power. I think we just stayed true to who we are and didn’t try to do anything special.”
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said he didn’t prepare his team well enough but gave credit to Wright State for being “clearly the better team from tip to buzzer.”
Arkansas defeated UConn — the top seed in the River Walk Regional — 90-87 on Jan. 28. But the Razorbacks had a rough end to the season, being upset by Ole Miss in the SEC tournament’s second round and then falling in the NCAA tournament’s first round. A strong offensive team most of the season, the Razorbacks were held to 60 and 62 points in their last two games.
“[Wright State] opened up in the zone, which shows you how poorly I had us prepared,” Neighbors said. “We hadn’t worked on a zone in a couple weeks. I didn’t think they would play it; they did. It bothered us. I did a real poor job the last two weeks, last three weeks, getting us to peak at the right time. I think we peaked too early.
“I asked so, so much of this these kids in the middle part of our year, trying to get to this point, that I forgot to focus on the finish line. I apologized to them for that. This is gonna be a summer of ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda.’ We’re going to be doing that all summer long, looking at this film.”
Arkansas was led by senior guard Chelsea Dungee’s 27 points; she is expected to be a first-round pick in the WNBA draft on April 15.
Merriweather, whose father runs a successful AAU program in Indianapolis, played collegiately at Cincinnati. As a young assistant at Purdue in the mid-2000s, she was involved in recruiting violations and then left the college game for a few years.
“When you accept that type of position, you accept the responsibility that comes with it,” Merriweather told the Dayton Daily News in 2016. “I was trying to help people and be a good person, but it was up to me to protect my job and I didn’t do a good job of it.”
She reentered coaching as an assistant at Wright State in 2010 and then became head coach in 2016. Now she has led the Raiders to the biggest win in program history.
“I think we love the idea of a David vs. Goliath,” Merriweather said. “And the opportunity to win games that people think that we shouldn’t based on our seeding. I think Angel Baker is one of the best guards in the country. I know people may be surprised she’s at Wright State, but there’s a lot of really good guards in the country. It’s all about recruiting and identifying the players that fit your system the best. And every once in a while, you get an Angel Baker at Wright State.”