Defense carries 'Hawks to ninth straight victory

Friday, February 10, 2006

Southeast allowed just 12 second-half points in a 58-43 win over Morehead St.

MOREHEAD, Ky. -- Southeast Missouri State has had some impressive defensive performances during its current long winning streak.

But what the Redhawks did during the second half against host Morehead State on Thursday just might top the list.

Southeast held the Eagles to 12 second-half points -- on 8 percent shooting -- as the Redhawks pulled away for their ninth consecutive victory, 58-43.

"Defensively, in the second half we really executed," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "To go on the road ... it might have been our best defensive half of the season."

Asked if he can ever remember a team of his holding an opponent to 8 percent from the field in a half, a smiling Smith said, "I don't think so."

The Redhawks improved to 15-7 overall and 12-3 in Ohio Valley Conference play to remain second among 11 OVC teams. Southeast trails Tennessee Tech by one-half game, although the squads are tied in the loss column.

"We just want to keep playing good, and take it one game at a time, like coach B.J. says," senior forward Simone Jackson said. "We don't really think about the winning streak."

MSU (10-11, 5-9), the OVC's ninth-place team, was 2 of 25 from the floor in the final period.

The Eagles finished at 21.2 percent for the game (11 of 52), and the only thing that kept them within striking distance much of the way was an 18 of 22 performance from the free-throw line.

"Defense is what coach B.J. always preaches about," Jackson said. "On the defensive end, it's just coming out and being aggressive for 40 minutes."

Southeast needed its stellar defense, because the Redhawks shot 39.7 percent (23 of 58) and fell well short of its OVC-leading scoring average of 72.5 points per game entering the contest.

"We couldn't make a layup," Smith said.

Senior center Tatiana Conceicao led the Redhawks with 17 points, 13 coming in the second half, when Southeast outscored MSU 25-12. Conceicao also had eight rebounds and five assists.

Jackson hit six of nine shots and scored 13 points, 11 coming in the first half.

Senior forward Natalie Purcell added 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Redhawks won the battle of the boards 45-34. Senior guard Katrisha Dunn had four steals off the bench.

Sophomore guard Megan Gearhart led the Eagles, who suffered their seventh straight loss, with 15 points.

But junior center LaKrisha Brown, MSU's leading scorer at nearly 16 points per game, missed all 12 of her field-goal attempts and failed to score.

"I thought Tatiana and [junior backup center] Lachelle Lyles did a really good job on Brown, who is a very talented player," Smith said.

As has been the case in most of their games during the winning streak, the Redhawks did not have a particularly inspiring first half.

MSU led 27-19 with under six minutes to go in the period, but Southeast closed with a 14-4 run and took a 33-31 halftime advantage on Conceicao's basket with three seconds left.

The Redhawks scored the first nine points of the second half to open up a 42-31 lead and had control the rest of the way, thanks to their stifling defense. Southeast has limited the opposition to an average of less than 51 points over the last nine games.

"In the first half they were killing us with dribble drives," Smith said. "We took that away from them in the second half. I thought our guards really did a good job in the second half."

Said Jackson: "In the second half, we knew we had to tighten up our defense."

After Southeast went ahead by 11 points early in the final period, MSU got no closer than six points, and the Redhawks' advantage never dipped under nine points over the last 10 minutes.

Southeast will look to finish off its two-game road trip by matching its longest winning streak on the Division I level when it plays at Eastern Kentucky Saturday afternoon. Last year's squad also posted 10 straight victories.

"We know Eastern Kentucky will be tough, so we have to keep playing good," Jackson said.

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