Wright State upsets Arkansas in NCAA tourney
Lady ‘ Backs fall in opening round to unheralded opponent in series of surprise losses
arkansasrazorbacks.com FAYETTEVILLE — Thirteenth-seeded Wright State came out with the right stuff to upset fourthseeded Arkansas, 66-62 in Monday’s first round of the NCAAWomen’s Basketball Tournament at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
With the physically intense “defense and rebounding” that Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather stressed, the Horizon League champion Raiders frustrated the 3-point shooting Razorbacks of the SEC to a 7 for 22 from three shooting afternoon while gathering the misses to outrebound Arkansas, 44-30.
Despite ample opportunities, the Razorbacks mustered but one offensive
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Photo courtesy of U of A LADY RAZORBACKS (cont.)
rebound at half.
In the meantime the Razorbacks had a devil of a time offensively and defensively
the Dayton, Ohio-based Raiders’ star guard doubledoubling with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
Arkansas, staying in the game on the free-throw line against the aggressive Raiders, 21 of 28 led by Chelsea Dungee’s 14 of 18 while scoring a game-leading 27 points, trailed 38-26 at half and the entire second half until a Dungee trey with 1:50 left in the game put Arkansas up, 5958 increased to 60-58 with Dungee hitting one of two free throws at 1:32.
Wright State seldom-used senior reserve Alexis Stover and Baker hit key threes to retake the lead, 64-62 and shoot free throws after Amber Ramirez missed Arkansas’ last shot with the outcome still hanging with 12 seconds
Arkansas concludes with a disappointing end to what still will be recalled as a banner 19-9 season.
The Razorbacks posted nonconference wins over national powers UConn and Baylor and logged a 96 SEC campaign though the season’s close first soured with an upset loss to Ole Miss at the SEC Tournament.
Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors shouldered the blame.
“I did a real poor job the last three weeks,” Neighbors said. “I think we peaked too early. I asked so much of our kids in the middle part of the year trying to get to this point that I forgot to focus on the finish line and not having a better plan for this game and going into the SEC Tournament.
“But all that said Wright State was clearly the better team from tip to buzzer.
They put the ball in Baker’s hands and let her make us wrong which she did a whole bunch. You can’t get outshot and outrebounded and have 15 turnovers. Just complete domination by Wright State. Congrats to them.”
Neighbors from the get go respected the Horizon League regular season and conference tournament championships that Merriweather’s Raiders achieved.
“I did not like the matchup from the moment I saw it come across,” Neighbors said. “You always are hesitant playing a team with a trophy with a net on it.
They played like a team that’s used to winning.”
And with a game plan that limited Arkansas to 17 of 52 shooting from the field.
“We ended the season with Ole Miss and Wright State with two very well prepared defenses that weren’t going to allow us to get to the foul line and make threes,” Neighbors said.
“They took one of those (the threes) away from us.”
Aside from Dungee averaging 22.3 points, Razorbacks Ramirez, Destiny Slocum and Makayla Daniels all entered the game averaging double figures scoring.
Only Daniels, 11 points, cracked double-digits as Ramiez, nine points, and Slocum two points shot a combined, 2 for 13 on threes.
“I thought when we got down we rushed some shots,” Neighbors said.
Senior Dungee took it hard exiting in Round One of the tournament this team had been striving for as Arkansas’ first NCAA Tournament team since 2015 and was denied last season’s 24-8 team and all teams in last year’s mid March all college sports COVID shutdown.
“We’ve had hour and a half practices since we’ve been here shooting the ball well,” Ramirez, a threeyear lettering transferring LADY RAZORBACKS (cont.)
from the University of Oklahoma said. “Today they just didn’t fall. They just played better than us today. We rely on shooting the ball well and that just didn’t happen for us today. We had a great year and won some big games. We expected a different outcome
from this tournament
but I am just grateful to coach Neighbors that I could play for the University of Arkansas.”
The Lady Razorbacks’ loss was not the only surprise of the day. The women's NCAA Tournament continued to prove unpredictable Monday as two other double- digit seeds advanced.
No. 11 BYU got things started with a 69-66 victory over sixth-seeded Rutgers for the tournament's first upset. Belmont, a 12th seed, won its first NCAA game, beating fifth-seeded Gonzaga 64-59.
The Cinderella teams shook things up after the favorites went a perfect 160 to begin the Texas-based tournament on Sunday. The biggest stunner may have been BYU, one of the last teams — if not the last — to get an at-large bid into the field of 64. And they were matched up against Rutgers, led by Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer, who has led the Scarlet Knights to 17 NCAA appearances in 26 seasons.
Yet, Paisley Johnson Harding scored 28 points and the Cougars kept their poise down the stretch to reach the second round in consecutive tournaments.
BYU will face third-seeded Arizona State for a spot in the Sweet 16.
'Coming into the NCAA Tournament, we just wanted to prove ourselves, and to everyone, to the nation, that we were going to fight and not let down and that we deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament,” WCC player of the year Shaylee Gonzales said.
The Cougars were beaten in the WCC title game on a last-second shot by Gonzaga. The Zags, though, lost to Belmont, which was 0-5 in its NCAA Tournament history. The Bruins were the first Ohio Valley Conference women's team to win an NCAA Tournament game since 1990.
Belmont guard Destinee Wells scored 25 points to lead her team into a second- round matchup with No. 4 seed Indiana.
“I came here to win championships and to make history, and we did that today,” Wells said. “I’m glad to see it’s paying off, all the hard work we put in over the season. We’ve been through a lot.”