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The Daily Eastern News

Eastern traveling to Wright State

Senior+Grace+Lennox+drives+to+the+basket+before+making+a+layup+in+Eastern%E2%80%99s+77-70+win+over+Indiana+State+Nov.+3+in+Lantz+Arena.+Eastern+plays+on+the+road+at+Wright+State+Tuesday.
Senior Grace Lennox drives to the basket before making a layup in Eastern’s 77-70 win over Indiana State Nov. 3 in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays on the road at Wright State Tuesday.

Senior Grace Lennox drives to the basket before making a layup in Eastern’s 77-70 win over Indiana State Nov. 3 in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays on the road at Wright State Tuesday.

Sean Hastings | The Daily Eastern News

Sean Hastings | The Daily Eastern News

Senior Grace Lennox drives to the basket before making a layup in Eastern’s 77-70 win over Indiana State Nov. 3 in Lantz Arena. Eastern plays on the road at Wright State Tuesday.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

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After opening its season against one of the top mid-major programs in the country, the Eastern women’s basketball team will travel to Wright State Tuesday where they will once again matchup with one the NCAA’s better mid-major teams.

Wright State is coming off a 25-9 season where it advanced to its third straight WNIT tournament appearance and this season expectations are even higher as they return all five starters from last year’s team.

Of the five starters returning for the Raiders is senior guard Chelsea Welch who was named the Horizon League’s preseason player of the year. She averaged a team high 18.8 points per game last season and scored in double figures in 33 of the Raiders 34 games, all of which she started in.

Welch presents multiple threats on the floor, she averaged 5.1 points per game, 110 assists, 20 blocks and 70 steals.

“She is just a really quick guard. A lefty that goes left really hard. She gets to the rim and makes plays and she can shoot as well. She can score in a variety of ways,” coach Matt Bollant said.

While Welch is Wright State’s biggest scoring threat, she is by no means their only one.

Forward Lexi Smith is also returning to the starting lineup. She averaged 12.8 points per game and a team-high 8.9 rebounds. Defense in the paint was a concern for the Panthers after their 93-64 loss to Northern Illinois, which means Smith and her ability to score from inside makes her a dangerous partner against Eastern to Welch.

Eastern attempted 70 shots in the loss against Northern, making just 24 of them, including just 3-of-19 in the second quarter.

Bollant said just playing with more poise on offense to eliminate poor quarters like the second one against Northern Illinois has been the main thing stressed to the team heading into the Wright State game.

“We just didn’t make the shots when we got them and we didn’t necessarily run a great offense. So we are just looking to play with more poise and run a better offense I’d like to anticipate,” Bollant said. “

Both Wright State and Northern Illinois were teams that won over 20 games last season and for the Panthers to open up their regular season against two very good teams is not ideal, it does provide Bollant a good look at where his new team is at, he said.

“It shows you the things you need to get better at,” Bollant said. “When you play against great teams you learn a lot about yourself and you learn the things that you have a way to go on. The good thing about playing good teams right away you know (is) we have a long way to go defensively and have a lot of growing to do as a quality team.”

Wright State won its first game of the season over Northern Ohio 106-52 at home.

The Raiders put up 81 total shots against Northern Ohio and shot 45 percent from the field.

Welch scored a game-high 25 points and pulled in eight rebounds.

Junior guard MacKenzie Taylor added 20 points of her own in the game.

The game between Eastern and Wright State tips-off at 6 p.m Tuesday night.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or jpbullock@eiu.edu

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Eastern traveling to Wright State