Wright State’s Mackenzie Taylor never let Cleveland State leading scorer Ashanti Abshaw get going, while Chelsea Welch was responsible for inciting Cleveland State’s leading scorer to go too far.
Abshaw drew a technical foul for charging at Welch after a collision, and Wright State converted the call into two free throws and a 3-pointer as part of a 10-0 run that put the Raiders comfortably ahead.
And that’s where third-seeded WSU stayed as it rode Welch’s game-high 24 points and Taylor’s career-high 22 to eliminate No. 6 CSU with an 83-61 victory Sunday afternoon in the Horizon League tournament quarterfinals at Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.
“It’s a physical game and things happen,” Welch said of the incident that triggered the Abshaw technical foul midway through the second quarter.
WSU (22-9) had just taken a 10-point lead when Welch poked the ball free from CSU’s Khayla Livingston and raced down the court to try to retrieve a long pass from teammate Emily Vogelpohl.
Abshaw sprinted for the ball, too, and the two first team all-league players collided near the baseline, with the impact sending Abshaw leaping over the CSU cheerleaders and into the second row of seats.
“(Vogelpohl) threw the ball up, and I tried to run it down,” Welch said. “Abshaw took an angle to try to cut me off, and when I tried to spin for the ball, she just kept running and it was kind of a collision. But she was going so fast I guess she tried to hop over chairs and there were a few rows of chairs.”
Abshaw felt it was a shove from Welch that sent her flying, but the officials reviewed the play, and Abshaw’s reaction to it, and the only call they made was the technical.
“It looked to me like two kids were running really hard for the ball,” CSU coach Kate Peterson Abiad said. “And when Ashanti’s going full speed, I don’t know how you stop. She’s got sprinters speed.
“Whether there was a push or not, the officials review it and said there wasn’t,” she added. “Ashanti was pretty fired up after the play. She needs to be able to control her temper and come out of that and be in a better place.”
Welch hit the two free throws awarded on the technical, then Breaunna Lloyd took the ensuing inbounds pass and nailed a corner 3-pointer before Vogelpohl, who started the 10-0 run with a 3-pointer just before the technical, got a steal and coast-to-coast layup to give WSU a 17-point lead.
Lloyd’s 3-pointer was part of a torrid first half in which the Raiders hit 7 of 12 shots from beyond the arc. Taylor made three of the 3-pointers on the way to tying her career high with six.
Lexi Smith added 12 points for Wright State, while Welch, the HL Player of the Year, tied her career high with 11 rebounds to notch her second double-double of the season. Vogelpohl also snared 11 rebounds to go along with seven points and a game-high four assists as the Raiders avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Vikings.
“Obviously I’m very proud of the amount of effort,” WSU coach Katrina Merriweather said. “We talk about showing up a lot. I think that’s one thing we did from the beginning. We knew how big of a game this was and how good of a team Cleveland State is.
“The gameplan was to try to limit Abshaw and Livingston’s good looks,” she added. “So I was really proud of us defensively.”
Sparked by Taylor’s defense on Abshaw, WSU held the pair of first team All-HL players to a combined 20 points on 7 of 31 shooting.
The win sends WSU into Monday’s semifinals, where the Raiders will face No. 2 IUPUI at 3:30 p.m. The two teams split their regular season meetings, with each one winning by three on the other team’s home floor.