Red-hot Governors pay visit to 'Hawks

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Southeast will try to snap Austin Peay's six-game winning streak.

If Southeast Missouri State's Redhawks are to compile only their second two-game winning streak of the season -- and build on their best performance of 2005-06 -- they'll have to beat the Ohio Valley Conference's hottest team.

Austin Peay, one year removed from a miserable season, will carry an overall six-game winning streak and a four-game OVC victory string into today's 5 p.m. contest at the Show Me Center.

The Governors and Redhawks have identical records of 7-7 overall and 4-3 in the OVC as they jockey for position in the standings. Southeast and Austin Peay are tied for fifth in the 11-team league.

"They've really been playing well, probably better than anybody in the conference," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said.

Smith hopes he can begin describing the Redhawks that way. The conference's preseason No. 2 pick, Southeast has been up and down, only once winning as many as two games in a row.

But Smith saw plenty of reason for hope in Southeast's most recent outing, a 72-62 victory at Murray State on Jan. 7. It was arguably the Redhawks' best performance of the season as they led 51-22 early in the second half.

"It was really the first time we looked like I thought we would all year," Smith said. "Now we have to see if we can play that way consistently."

Said senior center Tatiana Conceicao: "That's the way we have been trying to play all season long. We have to keep playing that way."

Two of the OVC's top players will be on display at the Show Me Center today.

While Conceicao is the reigning conference player of the year and also the preseason choice for that honor, Austin Peay's Ashley Haynes is making a strong case to be considered for the award.

Haynes, a 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward and a four-year starter, is averaging a double-double with 16.2 points and 13.9 rebounds per game.

Haynes, a key member of Austin Peay teams that won OVC regular-season and tournament titles her first two seasons, is the league's fifth-leading scorer, while ranking first in rebounding, field-goal percentage (57.6) and minutes played (36.6). She is also third in assists (4.1) and blocked shots (23).

"She is very talented. She's very athletic, she's good off the dribble, she shoots it well, and she's experienced winning," Smith said. "Her freshman and sophomore years, they went to the [NCAA] tournament, but last year they struggled."

Also averaging in double figures for the Govs are 6-2 sophomore center Kellea Reeves (11.5 ppg), 5-7 junior point guard Saundra Hale (11.3 ppg) and 5-6 sophomore guard Amber Bacon (10.3 ppg).

The Govs have bounced back nicely this season for coach Andy Blackston after they slumped to 8-19 overall and 4-12 in the OVC in 2004-05, leading them to be picked last in this year's preseason poll.

"I'm sure Andy used that as motivation," Smith said.

For Southeast, Conceicao is the OVC's second-leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder at 20.6 points and 7.8 boards per game.

Senior point guard Wanika Owsley tops the conference in assists with a 5.1 average, while freshman guard Tarina Nixon ranks third in 3-point shooting at 56.4 percent (22 of 39).

After going undefeated in OVC home games last year, the Redhawks have already suffered a conference loss at the Show Me Center this season.

"For us, we've got to win that fifth [OVC] game before we can get to anything else, and we sure don't want to lose another game at home," Smith said. "This is a big one for us, but it won't be an easy battle."

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