Austin Peay looks for third win over Southeast

Saturday, March 8, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Austin Peay's women's basketball team has not lost to an Ohio Valley Conference squad all season.

If Southeast Missouri State University can change that today, the Otahkians will be in the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time.

The top-seeded Governors (26-3) and second-seeded Otahkians (19-10) square off at 11 a.m. at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The winner receives the league's automatic NCAA berth.

"I think if we play together as a team, we can play with them and hopefully beat them," Southeast senior forward Lori Chase said.

Both squads posted relatively easy semifinal victories Friday. Southeast eased past sixth-seeded Tennessee Tech 78-65, and Austin Peay disposed of fourth-seeded Tennessee-Martin 73-58.

While both teams have had strong seasons, the Govs' campaign has been nothing short of dazzling.

Austin Peay, gunning for its third straight tournament crown, has posted 21 consecutive victories since losing Dec. 29 at Ohio State. They also suffered defeats at Memphis and nationally ranked Vanderbilt.

Since beginning OVC play, the Govs have been perfect. They went 16-0 in regular-season conference play, then beat Murray State by 21 points in Tuesday's first round of the tournament before romping Friday.

"They've just had a tremendous season," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "To go undefeated in any league is quite an accomplishment."

The Otahkians, in their first season under Smith, finished second in the OVC at 11-5, two of the losses coming to Austin Peay. Their 19 overall wins ties for the school record since moving up to Division I.

Austin Peay beat Southeast decisively on Jan. 25 in Clarksville, Tenn., 58-45, but the Otahkians led most of the way on Feb. 22 in Cape Girardeau before the Govs rallied for an 80-78 victory.

Asked if the Otahkians can draw some confidence from the last game against the Govs, Smith said, "We hope so. We'll go back and watch the tape and try to see where we were effective and where we weren't."

The Govs are led by senior guard Brooke Armistead, the OVC Player of the Year who averages a conference-leading 18.2 points per game.

Junior forward Gerlonda Hardin, like Armistead an all-league pick, averages 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds.

"Hardin and Armistead have hurt us both times," Smith said. "They execute their offense better than anybody. It's hard to get them out of what they do.

"They're a good, good basketball team. We'll have to work to stay in the game with them.

"Hopefully we can make it a game," Smith said, smiling. "We're going to show up."

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