Otahkians look for edge against young Eaglettes

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Times are somewhat surprisingly tough for Tennessee Tech's women these days, but Southeast Missouri State University coach B.J. Smith knows one thing.

The Otahkians (11-6, 5-2 Ohio Valley Conference) better not take the Golden Eaglettes (7-10, 2-4) lightly when the squads hook up at the Show Me Center today in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.

"They're still a dangerous team," Smith said. "They're really young and I'm sure they've had some growing pains, but they've still got a lot of tradition."

Tradition in the form of 15 OVC regular-season championships and nine OVC Tournament titles. Tradition in the form of either winning or sharing the past five conference crowns. Tradition in the form of posting at least 21 wins in each of the last five seasons.

But this season's Eaglettes did not return a starter from last year, and among the graduation losses was three-time OVC Player of the Year Janet Holt. Tech routinely starts four freshmen and three of its top four scorers are freshmen, with the other being a sophomore.

So it's not totally surprising the Eaglettes have struggled so far this season, although they were still expected to be a factor in the OVC race and were picked fourth in the preseason poll.

"They've got talent, but a lot of it is really young," Smith said. "When you're playing a lot of freshmen, it can be tough. But they're the kind of team that is going to keep getting better."

Tech has been led by its defense: The Eaglettes rank third in the OVC in scoring defense, fourth in field-goal percentage defense and first in 3-point field-goal percentage defense. Tech allows just 66 points per game while opponents shoot only 41.6 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from 3-point range.

On the other hand, the Eaglettes have struggled offensively, ranking sixth in the OVC with 65 points per game.

Emily Christian, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward, leads the Eaglettes offensively with 12.8 points per game, but she is Tech's only double-figure scorer.

Arleigh Brackin, a 5-6 freshman guard, is fourth in the OVC in 3-point shooting (38.8 percent). She is the Eaglettes' second-leading scorer (8.6 ppg).

Southeast, coming off Thursday's 82-64 win at Eastern Illinois, will look to speed things up today since the Otahkians are the OVC's second-highest scoring team with nearly 76 points per game.

"They'll want to slow it down some, and we always want to speed things up," Smith said.

The Otahkians are in third place in the nine-team OVC, just one game behind second-place Eastern Kentucky (6-1) and two games behind leader Austin Peay (7-0). Tech is in sixth place.

Southeast will play its next four conference games at home, affording the Otahkians an opportunity to make even more of a push toward the top of the standings.

"This is a big stretch for us," Smith said. "Hopefully we can put a nice run together while we're at home for a while."Noteworthy

***Monday's 7 p.m. game against Tennessee State at the Show Me Center will feature "Take a Kid to the Game" night.

Fans age 12 and under will be admitted free and the first 200 fans age 12 and under will receive a NCAA J.J. Jumper Growth Chart.


335-6611, extension 132

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