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Southeast routs Lambuth in exhibition
The Redhawks rolled to an 87-61 victory in its lone preseason game.
B.J. Smith expected his retooled Southeast Missouri State women to receive a solid test in their only exhibition game.
Consider the exam passed with flying colors.
The Redhawks, who lost six key seniors from last year's Ohio Valley Conference championship and NCAA tournament team, looked like they hadn't missed a beat in crushing Lambuth 87-61 Friday night at the Show Me Center.
"I thought they could come in and challenge us," Smith said of the NAIA squad from Jackson, Tenn., that went 18-14 last season and returned four starters. "I'm pleased. It's a good starting point for us. And the things we didn't do well are very fixable."
Southeast received strong performances from many of its six returning players -- only two saw considerable action last year and both averaged less than six points per game -- along with several of its five newcomers.
Senior center Lachelle Lyles, who averaged 4.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game off the bench last year -- she was one of the OVC's top rebounders in conference games with a 7.5 average -- had a double-double Friday with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
"We're starting to come along," said Lyles, who hit six of seven shots from the field. "I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."
Sophomore point guard Tarina Nixon, Southeast's lone returning starter who averaged 5.6 points per game a year ago, scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds while adding two assists and three steals. She played shooting guard last season.
"We have a lot work to do, but I'm surprised how well it's come together so far," Nixon said. "We did a lot of good things."
Said Smith, "Lachelle and Tarina have really gotten better. I thought Tarina was outstanding in really her first opportunity to play the point."
The other four returnees -- all averaged less than two points per game last year -- also made solid contributions.
Sophomore guard Sonya Daugherty scored 13 points, sophomore forward Rachel Blunt added 10 points, sophomore guard Szandra Pal contributed four assists and two steals, and senior center Joiceline Thesing grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.
"All of our returning players have improved quite a bit," Smith said. "They're good players, they just weren't good enough to play in front of the people we had last year."
Junior guard Ashley Lovelady, a transfer from Moberly Area College, tied Nixon for team-high scoring honors with 15.
Lovelady, who joined Lyles, Nixon, Blunt and Pal in the starting lineup, also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"It was a good first time out for her," Smith said.
Southeast's most heralded recruit, junior forward Missy Whitney -- a Charleston High School product who was an All-American at Three Rivers Community College last year -- shook off early foul trouble to have a solid outing.
Whitney, who came off the bench Friday, picked up two early fouls and played just 2 minutes in the first half. But she played 11 second-half minutes, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds while hitting five of six shots.
"I'm disappointed she got into foul trouble, but she's got a lot of talent and she'll be a great player for us," Smith said.
Another newcomer, freshman guard Mathilde Dufour, hit two first-half 3-pointers and scored seven points.
"She's a great shooter. That's her strength," Smith said.
Southeast shot 48.5 percent, held Lambuth to 35.8 percent and outrebounded the Eagles 56-33.
On the negative side, the Redhawks hit just 16 of 31 free throws and had 17 turnovers.
"We'll keep working and try to get ready for our first game," said Smith, whose squad opens the season Nov. 11 at Tulsa.