Raiders women finally learn their NCAA dance partner

By John Bombatch Sports Editor jbombatch@civitasmedia.com

March 18, 2014

FAIRBORN — The members of the Wright State University women’s basketball team did their best to remain cool, calm and collected Monday night, as they watched the NCAA Women’s College Basketball selection show on TV.

The multitude of media cameras and microphones didn’t seem to bother them. The fact they were running out of celebratory cake wasn’t a factor, either. But it was taking much longer than they had expected.

The 16 teams were announced for each of the first three regional brackets, but Wright State (26-8) wasn’t among them.

A few groans from some impatient fans and players alike could be heard when the Horizon League champions were not mentioned.

The televisions cut to commercials, and then the top half of the West LaFayette bracket were named and … nuthin’. The groans were louder. With games in Toledo among part of the bracket, it seemed a logical fit for an Ohio team like Wright State to play in Ohio.

But, no.

Then the TV announcers discussed the upper bracket a little bit and …? There it was! Finally! The picture of the lower bracket came onto all the Nutter Center televisions — and even the scoreboards.

With a loud cheer from the crowd of 100 or so fans and supporters on hand, the Wright State women had learned their fate: They were the region’s 14th seed (out of 16) and would be headed to Lexington, Ky. for a first-round game against the third-seeded University of Kentucky Wildcats (24-8).

Players hugged each other. Fans exchanged high fives, and camera flashes lit up the Nutter Center party deck as the Raiders’ next opponent was finally announced. Mike Bradbury said it was exciting to be headed down to the Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.

“We go down to Lexington, and it’s close so our fans, friends and family will be able to go. It’s exciting,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be up for the challenge.”

Junior guard Abby Jump had a unique reason to be excited to be headed to Lexington. From Florence, she’s the team’s lone Kentuckian on the roster.

“I live only about 45 minutes from Lexington, so I’m real excited to be going home to have my family and friends come down there,” Jump said.

Tay’ler Mingo patiently fielded the media’s questions.

“We just wanna play, honestly,” Mingo said. “We’ve got girls that can play with anybody, and we’ve proved it over and over this season. … We lost what, two games here at home all year? Now, making it into the tournament, hopefully our momentum doesn’t run out against Kentucky, because we deserve to be in this.”

Breanna Stucke may have summed up how the entire team felt when she said it really didn’t matter who they were going to play, or where they were headed, or what they happened to be seeded.

“This is a new experience to all of us, so the seeding doesn’t really matter,” she said. “It’s just really cool to be a part of it. Our families can come down and witness this with us, too. We’re just glad to be there.”

Wright State earned its first-ever NCAA tourney trip by defeating Green Bay for the Horizon League title. They’ll play Kentucky at 11 a.m. Saturday. The game will also be broadcast live on ESPN2.