Wright State junior guard Chelsea Welch looks to pass with pressure from Central Michigan’s Presley Hudson during a WNIT game on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at the Nutter Center. Contributed Photo by Bryant Billing

Wright State women confident after nearly shocking Missouri

The Raiders looked poised for a signature win for much of the night and were tied with the 23rd-ranked Tigers when Symone Simmons was whistled for a foul with 1.4 seconds left. The SEC power converted the two free throws for a 82-80 win — its 47th straight in nonconference home games going back to 2011.

“That was a hard one to swallow,” Merriweather said. “With 1.4 seconds left, you’d have liked to see the game go into overtime and just let the best team that night win. But we control what we can and leave it up to the referees.”

Despite the defeat, the performance gave the Raiders a jolt of confidence and confirmed they are capable of competing with virtually anyone.

Missouri has reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament the last two years and celebrated its most recent trip by hanging a banner before the Wright State game.

“You walk into that gym, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Merriweather said. “It’s a huge environment with a lot of fans. Everything was perfect about that night for them, and I think we handled it with a lot of grace and composure.”

The Raiders took a 75-65 lead with 6:51 left on a 3-pointer by Simmons, but they couldn’t hold on.

“It’s a little heart-breaking because I feel like we played well enough to win that game. I’m very, very proud of them,” Merriweather said.

One player having an especially memorable night was Chelsea Welch, the Horizon League preseason player of the year. She had a career-high 36 points and six assists, going 11-of-18 from the field, 4-of-5 on 3-pointers and 10-of-10 from the foul line.

The senior guard from Fairmont High School notched the highest point total for the Raiders since K.C. Elkin had 37 against Valparaiso on March 8, 2014.

“Chelsea is always pretty good for us,” Merriweather said, “but she had a special night because she shot very well from the 3-point line as well. She was getting to the rim whenever she wanted to. She rebounded. She defended. She played 40 minutes against a top-25 team, and it says a lot about her talent level and effort.”

The Raiders (2-1) are playing in the Savannah Invitational this week. They won their first game against Stetson, 64-59, on Tuesday and were scheduled to play Providence on Wednesday and Richmond on Thanksgiving.

They have the depth to withstand three games in three days because of the impact of the four freshmen: Nia Sumpter, Kiana Adderton, Breaunna Lloyd and Tyler Frierson.

All have had their moments, but the 5-foot-11 Sumpter has been the biggest surprise, starting two games at center and averaging 4.3 points and 4.0 rebounds.

“If anyone would look at recruiting rankings or opinions of people, she was the lowest-ranked of the four kids we signed,” Merriweather said. “She has the highest motor. She has a great work ethic. She’s very athletic. And that’s been key to her transition to the college game.

“She’ll make mistakes, but she plays so hard that she usually recovers and makes up for them. We’re really fortunate to have her.”

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