A quick change by Mackenzie Taylor paid off big for Wright State in a Women’s National Invitational Tournament game on Thursday at the Nutter Center.
Central Michigan led by one point with under a minute left when the Raiders called a play designed for Taylor to shoot a 3-pointer. Instead, Taylor dribbled inside and laid a shot off the glass with 49 seconds left.
The basket gave the Raiders a lead, and they held on to earn a 66-64 win. It’s the third postseason victory in Wright State’s history and the program’s first since 2012.
It didn’t come without some late nail-biting, though. Central Michigan forward Tinara Moore drove inside and put up a shot with about three seconds left, and it bounced off the side of the rim and fell to the floor as the buzzer sounded.
“You watch and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God,’ as it goes,” Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather said. “But we’re so used to people trying to get it down there in the post since we’re five players 5-foot-10 and under. It doesn’t take rocket science to know people are going to try to bang it in there. What we really concentrated on doing was not fouling, and knowing that people miss shots.”
Wright State didn’t let the height disadvantage affect its scoring in the post. Despite Central Michigan’s 40-30 rebounding advantage, the Raiders outscored the Chippewas 30-28 in the paint.
No inside shot was bigger than Taylor’s go-ahead basket, even if the play wasn’t drawn up that way.
“That play that we ran was for (Taylor) to get a 3,” Merriweather said. “She’s standing by me and I say, ‘Hey Mac, you ready?’ She goes, ‘Yeah.’ Well, they covered it, but she did an awesome job driving to lay it in. So now I know when she says that she’s ready, she means she’s ready to score, and not that she’s ready to shoot a 3.”
Central Michigan took a 38-37 lead after a 3-pointer by Cassie Breen with 7:27 left in the third quarter, and the teams traded leads four times over the next 15 minutes.
Tinara Moore hit a foul shot to give Central Michigan a 64-61 lead with 2:14 left in the fourth, but Chelsea Welch hit two free throws 35 seconds later to cut the lead to one. After Taylor’s basket put the Raiders up 65-64, Emily Vogelpohl added a foul shot with 26 seconds left to increase the lead to two.
Welch led Wright State with 21 points, while Symone Simmons scored 20 and Lexi Smith scored 10. Taylor finished with seven points.
The Raiders advance to face Michigan in a second-round WNIT game on Saturday in Ann Arbor.