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Purcell guns down Skyhawks
Natalie Purcell finally got the record she had been chasing. And even better was that it helped Southeast Missouri State extend its long winning streak.
Purcell, a senior forward, set a Southeast single-game record with seven 3-point baskets Saturday night as the host Redhawks held off pesky Tennessee-Martin 67-52.
"It's nice to get it, and it's especially nice to get it when we won again," Purcell said.
Purcell had already owned a piece of the record by making six 3-pointers twice during her two-year Southeast career -- earlier this season against Tennessee State and last year against Samford.
But until Saturday, she had to share the mark with two other players. Now it's all her own.
"I was hoping to get the record this year. It's exciting," said Purcell, whose 55 3-pointers last year rank fifth on Southeast's single-season list.
Purcell's record-breaking 3-pointer Saturday came with 49 seconds remaining and ended the night's scoring in the Redhawks' eighth consecutive victory. The basket represented Southeast's biggest lead.
"I really wasn't thinking about it before the game," Purcell said. "But when I hit my sixth, I knew I tied it again, and I wanted to break it."
Purcell finished with a game-high 21 points, as she made 7 of 15 from 3-point range. She did not attempt a field goal from inside the arc.
"It was good to see Natalie get the record," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "And we needed those baskets. They really weren't guarding us from outside of 15 feet. Natalie's shots were big."
The Redhawks improved to 14-7 overall and 11-3 in Ohio Valley Conference play. They remained in second place in the OVC, one-half game behind Tennessee Tech, although the squads are tied in the loss column.
Senior center Tatiana Conceicao, the OVC's second-leading scorer, hit six of seven shots and added 14 points for the Redhawks.
Senior guard Katrisha Dunn connected on 3 of 6 from 3-point range and scored nine points off the bench, while senior guard Tiffanne Ryan recorded a season-high seven assists off the bench.
"Tiffanne is playing better and better," Smith said.
Despite the 15-point margin of victory -- Southeast's seventh win of more than 10 points during its current streak -- the game was far from easy.
UTM (6-15, 4-10), despite being in 10th place among 11 OVC squads, gave Southeast quite a battle. The Skyhawks never trailed by more than 10 points until the last 4 minutes, and they were within two points with under 9 minutes remaining.
"They were tough. It's definitely good, to have a team come in and play us so hard like that," Ryan said. "We know teams are going to bring their best game against us."
Said Smith: "I thought Tennessee-Martin really played hard, especially defensively and on the boards. It's good to be in a game like this, where we're challenged. I think we handled it well."
The Skyhawks led 10-2 early, but the Redhawks appeared to take control with a 19-1 run that put them up 21-11 midway through the first half.
UTM, however, would not go away. The Skyhawks scored 10 straight points to pull into a 21-21 tie.
Purcell's 3-pointer with 4:34 left in the period gave Southeast a 24-21 lead. The Redhawks never relinquished the advantage, but they also could not shake the Skyhawks until late.
It was 29-25 at halftime. Southeast opened a pair of 10-point leads early in the second half, but UTM found itself behind just 49-47 with a little more than 8 minutes remaining.
Southeast then used a 10-2 burst -- Conceicao scored the first four points and senior forward Simone Jackson got the last six -- to go up 59-49 with 5 minutes left as the Redhawks finally gained control for good. Their lead never dipped under nine points the rest of the way.
"They were a tough team. We knew we couldn't overlook them," Purcell said.
The Redhawks shot 50 percent (25 of 50), including 42.3 percent from 3-point range (11 of 26).
UTM shot 43.2 percent (19 of 44), but just 37.5 percent in the second half. The Skyhawks were led by junior forward Andreika Jackson with 16 points.
"We didn't play our best game, but I thought we were solid," Smith said. "We know everybody we play is going to be tough, and Tennessee-Martin was tough tonight."