Missouri State came away the winner in this battle of the mid-majors, beating back an upstart No. 13 seed, Wright State, that had just completed the tournament’s biggest upset with a victory over No. 4-seeded Arkansas.
Elle Ruffridge, a 5-foot-3 senior guard, put on a show with 20 points, matching a career high, as she made seven of her eleven shot attempts from the floor. Jasmine Franklin helped the Lady Bears control the glass with her 11 rebounds, surpassing her season average of 10 boards per game, while Wright State struggled to establish the rebounding that had fueled its first-round upset. Missouri State had outrebounded the Raiders by 16 when the rout was complete, 64-39.
“I mean, shooters shot,” Ruffridge said after the game. “I was locked in, in the zone. I’m going to do whatever it took to win.”
The fifth-seeded Lady Bears will make their second consecutive trip to the Sweet Sixteen, a feat of continuity for Missouri State coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton in her first postseason as a head coach. Agugua-Hamilton is the first African-American woman to be the head coach of any sport at Missouri State.
“I think they don’t get the respect they deserve,” Agugua-Hamilton said of her team after the game. “You haven’t seen any highlights from our game in the first round, and you didn’t see anything about us going into this game. The N.C.A.A. tweeted out Wright State’s picture. We handle a lot of disrespect, but it just fuels our fire. We say, ‘Grind now, shine later,’ every single day.”