Elle Ruffridge had a career-high 20 points with five 3-pointers, Jasmine Franklin had a double-double and fifth-seeded Missouri State is going to its second consecutive Sweet 16 in the women’s NCAA Tournament after knocking off Wright State 64-39 in matchup of mid-major teams Wednesday.
The Lady Bears (23-2) pulled away in the second half when Ruffridge had 17 of her points. Franklin had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
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Ruffridge and Franklin are among nine current Lady Bears who were also part of the Sweet 16 team two years ago that lost to Stanford, the same team they will play in the Alamo Region semifinal Sunday.
Missouri State went ahead on two tiebreaking free throws by Brice Calip with 2 minutes left in the second quarter before Mya Bhinhar swished a 3-pointer for a 24-19 halftime lead. Sydney Manning’s 3-pointer capped a 12-3 run to start the second half. That trio was also on the last Sweet 16 team.
Angel Baker and Shamarre Hale each had 10 points for the 13th-seeded Raiders (19-8), who got outscored 40-20 after halftime. They had gotten their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory in the opening round against Arkansas on Monday.
After opening this tournament with a 21-point win over UC Davis, another mid major, Missouri State now has to play the Cardinal, the No. 1 overall seed in this NCAA Tournament. Stanford beat the then-No. 11 seed Lady Bears in the Sweet 16 two years ago.
While there are a lot of returning players, the Lady Bears are getting to this Sweet 16 with a different coach. They were 26-4 last season in coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton’s debut before the NCAA tourney was canceled because of the pandemic.
Agugua-Hamilton succeeded Kellie Harper, who after coaching the 2019 Sweet 16 team was hired by Tennessee, her alma mater.
Wright State had tied the game at 19 when Emani Jefferson made a 3-pointer that hit the rim, popped straight up and then fell through the net with 3:44 left in the half.
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Baker had averaged 25.6 points in four postseason games for the Horizon League champions before Wednesday. Her 3-pointer with 29.1 seconds left put Wright State ahead of Arkansas. Baker was averaging 18.4 points on the season, but was handled defensively by Calip.
The Lady Bears hadn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2001, when they made it all the way to the Final Four. This is their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since then.