Raiders survive IUPUI for fifth straight win


FAIRBORN — In the classic baseball movie “Major League,” Cleveland manager Lou Brown told his team, “OK, we won a game yesterday. If we win today, it’s called ‘two in a row.’ And if we win again tomorrow, it’s called a ‘winning streak.’ … It has happened before!”

Although it’s a different sport, it’s happening in real life in Fairborn as the Wright State women’s basketball team beat Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis — aka IUPUI — 79-67 in the Horizon League opener on Thursday for its fifth straight win.

At this point, the 5-2 Raiders are looking at “winning streak” in the rearview mirror. Call it a “Raider Roll” as they are off to their best seven-game start since the 2017-18 season.

“We’ll take it,” Coach Kari Hoffman said. “I think early in the season, I learned this the past couple years, that you need to find that confidence early. We have done that and we have played in some close games that have helped that.”

Grad transfer Alexis Hutchison led all scorers with 22 points, while senior transfer Layne Ferrell added 18, sophomore Lauren Scott 13, and junior Kacee Baumhower 12.

While it was another solid team win for the upstart Raiders, it was those four who helped decide the game.

The Raiders led 58-52 after three quarters, but IUPUI opened the fourth with a quick run to make it 64-61 with 7:05 left. Following several misses by each team, Baumhower made a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 66-61 with 5:35 left. IUPUI’s Logan Lewis made a layup to cut it to 66-63 with 5:23 left, but Rachel Loobie drained a jumper in the lane to up the lead back to five 21 seconds later.

After a turnover by IUPUI, Scott made a three pointer to make it 71-63 before Faith Stinson made a layup to cut it to 71-65 with 3:55 left. Hutchison the made two straight baskets after IUPUI turnovers to increase the lead to 75-65 with 2:41 left.

A Ferrell layup with 1:37 left made it 77-65 effectively ending any thoughts of an IUPUI comeback.

“It was tough sledding on offense,” Hoffman said. “We found a way to make the plays in the fourth quarter that really mattered.”

That may not have been the case last season for the Raiders, who went 8-24 overall and won three of their last four games.

“There’s a trust and a belief in our locker room that we believe we’re better and we should win,” Hoffman said. “I do think there is a confidence on our team that we found way earlier than we did last year. We lost these games early last year because we didn’t have that confidence. Now I think we do and we also have just more experienced players that know how to make the plays when the game’s on the line and we did that today.”

The streak was definitely in question in the first half.

Every time the Raiders tried to pull away, the Jaguars answered. After trailing 5-2 early, WSU led 18-9 at the end of the first quarter after a three pointer by Hutchison. The lead reached 23-13 after a three pointer by Loobie — who finished with nine points — with 6:54 left in the half and the Raiders seemed to be en route to a big win.

But IUPUI (1-6) kept it close, cutting the lead to 28-25 after a fast-break jumper by Katie Davidson with 2:30 left. A three pointer from Baumhower doubled the lead before Hocevar made two free throws with 1:43 left. Baumhower made two free throws with 1:24 left, but Stinson followed with a pair from the line with 1:11 left, making it 33-29.

Hutchison made two free throws and a layup in the final minute to make it 37-29, but Hocevar made a shot in the paint with four seconds left to make it 37-31 WSU at halftime. IUPUI shot just 32.4 percent in the half, but it made five of seven from the line while shooting 42 percent from the field in the second quarter, keeping the game within reach.

That continued in the third quarter as the Jaguars made six of nine from the line while shooting 46.7 percent from the field. The Raiders led by 10 on three occasions midway through the third and had an 11-point lead after a pair of free throws by Baumhower with 3:06 left. But the Jaguars made five free throws down the stretch to make it 58-52 heading into the fourth.

“We put them to the free throw line just an awful lot,” Hoffman said. “That hurt us. We couldn’t seem to defend without fouling.”

The Raiders eventually figured it out. The Jags went to the line just three times in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over seven times.

“Just defensively, finally, in the fourth we finally strung a couple stops together and made them take shots outside the paint and didn’t foul,” Hoffman said. “It wasn’t our prettiest day at all but we’ll take a conference win in November any time.”

The Raiders shot 42 percent from the field but countered that by making 14 of 17 from the free throw line, well above their 77.3 percent average, which is 37th nationally. The Raiders also made 46.7 percent of their three pointers (seven of 15), nearly 10 percentage points better than their top-25 average of 37.9 percent.

They play at Purdue Fort Wayne at 2 p.m. Sunday and then host Eastern Illinois at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.

Raider run-ons

Hutchison’s jumper with 3:16 left in the game put her at 1,501 points for her career, which began at Malone. She has scored double figures in every game but one, averaging 16.9 per game.

“She’s just a gamer,” Hoffman said. “She knows how to get her shot up at any point. Sometimes that’s to a fault and we talk about that. (But) you can’t take away any of those intangibles she has. I think we’d be a very different team if she wasn’t on it.”

— Loobie had a career-high nine rebounds against the Jags. Her previous career best was eight, which she had at Michigan State and Indiana State.

— After beginning the season with two scoreless games, Scott has scored double figures in three of WSU’s last five.

— Wright State ended a four-game losing streak to IUPUI and leads the all-time series 14-8.

Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

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