By SETH STRINGER
LUBBOCK – NWF State's lauded defense has delivered the Raiders to the Elite Eight.
But, really, can anyone be surprised from yet another stifling, in-your-jersey effort – the latest Wednesday's 51-50 Sweet 16 win over sixth-seed Butler at the Rip Griffin Center.
The answer is no one, at least no one that has watched 11th-seeded NWF State this season limit foes to 53 points points a night on 33 percent shooting and a 29-percent clip from 3.
On Wednesday the Raiders forced 17 turnovers and held Butler (27-5) to 30 percent shooting and a 2-for-19 clip from 3, the final miss well off the mark from Camille Downs as time expired.
The biggest defensive stand came with 7.4 seconds left after a Georgia Gayle turnover and the Raiders clinging to a one-point lead. After a frenetic possession found Downs on the left wing, Jaiden McCoy's outstretched hands pushed the potential game-winner well left of the rim as it barely grazed the backboard.
Now the Raiders (26-5) are bound for the Elite Eight for the second straight year and will face 14th-seeded Trinity Valley (27-4) – which knocked off Shelton State earlier in the night – Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Lubbock.
Gayle, who now has 35 points in the national tournament and is 10-of-19 from 3, delivered a game-high 17 points for the Raiders, including a trey with 4:47 left to play to put the Raiders up 48-40. Butler answered with a 6-0 run, but Cece Mayo delivered a 3 from the right wing with 2:34 to give the Raiders a 51-46 lead.
Awreona Ransom's layup with 16 seconds left drew the deficit to 51-50, but NWF State delivered the clutch stop after Gayle's turnover with 7.4 seconds left.
The win marks the second time in the tournament NWF State held its foe to 50 points, the first coming in a 79-50 win over 22nd-seeded NOC-Enid on Tuesday.
The Raiders, who were coming off a 51-percent shooting effort and 10 3s against the Jets, shot 41 percent from the floor but made just 11 trips to the foul line and 5-of-15 3s.
Awa Trasi added 13 points and Shania Meertens delivered a team-best eight assists on a night when point guard Leandra Echi was plagued with foul trouble. McCoy, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the opener, delivered six points and eight rebounds.