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Redhawks take over top spot in conference
Southeast's 54-49 victory against UT-Martin and Tennesse Tech's loss bring about change in the OVC lead.
MARTIN, Tenn. -- It wasn't a thing of beauty, but Southeast Missouri State's long winning streak endures.
The Redhawks survived a major scare from host Tennessee-Martin on Saturday afternoon, squeezing out a 54-49 victory.
Southeast's 12th consecutive triumph kept the team on course for the program's first Ohio Valley Conference championship.
And the Redhawks (18-7, 15-3) received some good news a short time after their win, as Austin Peay completed an upset of Tennessee Tech. So Southeast vaulted above Tech into first place in the OVC by one-half game.
If the Redhawks capture their final two contests, at home this week against Samford and Jacksonville State, they will win the conference title outright. One more victory assures Southeast at least a share of the crown.
"That's great news, but we still have to take care of business," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said.
As for Saturday's win, Smith said, "It sure wasn't easy. But it's always tough to win on the road, and for some reason we always struggle here.
"We knew Tennessee-Martin would play us tough because they really needed this game. We're just glad to get out of here with a win."
UTM (8-18, 6-13) remained in 10th place in the 11-team OVC and was mathematically eliminated from making the eight-team league tournament.
Southeast trailed by a point with less than 3 minutes remaining, but the Redhawks hit two crucial 3-point baskets to gain control.
Senior center Tatiana Conceicao, the reigning OVC player of the year and Southeast's leading scorer at 19 points per game, endured a rough outing. She had just seven points, four coming from the free throw line.
But all seven points came in the final 8 minutes, and her 3-pointer with 2:22 left put the Redhawks up for good, 47-45. It was Conceicao's only field goal of the game.
"I didn't have one of my best games, but the main thing is we won," Conceicao said. "Tennessee-Martin really played us tough. It was a hard game."
Said Smith: "That 3-pointer was the biggest shot of the game, especially for her to not shoot it well, then to step up and hit that. It was big time."
After a UTM miss, senior guard Katrisha "Red" Dunn drilled a 3-pointer at the 1:28 mark as Southeast went ahead 50-45.
"Red always seems to show up when you need something," Smith said.
After UTM pulled within 50-46, Southeast senior point guard Wanika Owsley hit two free throws with 22 seconds left to make it 52-46.
A 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining cut Southeast's lead to 52-49 and gave the Skyhawks a glimmer of hope, but Owsley made two more free throws with 2.3 seconds left to seal the win.
Dunn led the Redhawks with 12 points, all coming on 3-pointers. She made 4 of 9.
Senior forward Natalie Purcell had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Southeast shot just 31.5 percent (17 of 54), but nearly half of the Redhawks' field goals were 3-pointers as they hit 8 of 24.
UTM shot 40 percent (18 of 45), but the Skyhawks had only three 3-pointers.
"I don't think we were real sharp physically," Smith said. "But I thought Tennessee-Martin did a good job defensively."
The game was close virtually the whole way, with seven lead changes and six ties. Each squad led by seven points, which was the day's largest advantage.
Southeast led 26-21 at halftime, then saw UTM score the first five points of the second half to pull even. Things remained tight the rest of the way.
"It was a battle," Smith said. "We're just glad we found a way to win."