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Southeast women squeeze out sixth straight win 66-64
RICHMOND, Ky. -- As a point guard, Tarina Nixon usually isn't in a position to grab many offensive rebounds -- especially not directly underneath the opposing team's basket.
But, by her own admission, Nixon was in the right place at the right time Tuesday in the late stages of a tight Ohio Valley Conference contest.
And now Southeast Missouri State's women have a six-game winning streak.
Nixon laid in a missed shot with 24 seconds remaining for the winning basket in a 64-62 road triumph over Eastern Kentucky.
"As one [point guard], my job is usually to get back and stop the break. But I knew we were trying to do whatever we could to get a loose ball," said Nixon, a sophomore who averages about one offensive rebound per game, although she had three Tuesday. "I'm usually not that alone. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Nixon's basket, after Southeast junior forward Missy Whitney had missed a jumper, gave the Redhawks a 63-62 lead.
Southeast still had to survive a few anxious moments.
After EKU missed a shot, Southeast senior center Lachelle Lyles was off on the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with 3.2 seconds left.
But a long pass by the Colonels was intercepted by Southeast sophomore guard Szandra Pal, who was fouled and made one of two from the line with three-tenths of a second left for the final margin.
"It feels good to have a six-game winning streak," Nixon said. "We're just trying to get as much momentum going as we can."
The Redhawks improved to 9-4 overall and 4-1 in OVC play as they remained in second place in the 11-team league. EKU fell to 5-9 and 2-3.
"Any time you can go on the road and win, especially in the conference, it's big," Southeast acting head coach John Ishee said.
Southeast's top two scorers on the season -- both junior college transfers -- again led the Redhawks offensively.
Whitney, averaging 13.8 points per game before Tuesday, had her fourth double-double of the campaign with 19 points and 12 rebounds. She also blocked three shots.
Whitney hit three of five 3-pointers as the Redhawks made 9 of 19 from beyond the arc for 47.4 percent, although their overall field-goal percentage was just 39.3.
Junior guard Ashley Lovelady, carrying a 12.4 scoring average entering the game, had 16 points and three assists. Earlier in the day, she was named the OVC newcomer of the week.
Nixon also reached double figures with 12 points and she had a team-high four assists.
The Redhawks also received a strong -- and unexpected -- offensive contribution from Pal, who was averaging 2.5 points mostly in a reserve role and had never before scored more than seven points in a game on the collegiate level.
Pal did not play in the first half Tuesday, but Ishee started her in the second half primarily because he thought she could help out on defense.
Pal evidently did a pretty good job defensively, because she never left the court in the final period, playing all 20 minutes.
On the offensive end, Pal scored a career-high eight points, including six in the last three minutes. Her 3-pointer with 2:12 remaining put Southeast up 61-56, although EKU later regained the lead.
"She was the difference in the game," Ishee said. "She hit some big shots."
Said Pal, a native of Hungary, "Coach put me in for defense. I was just trying to do my best. I don't shoot that much, but I had open shots."
Lyles, the nation's leading rebounder, pulled down 17 rebounds as Southeast dominated the boards 46-31. Lyles is averaging 16.3 rebounds per game.
The game was tight throughout, with 21 lead changes, seven ties and no advantage bigger than seven points.
Southeast was ahead much of the first half, including 22-15 for the largest lead by either squad, but fell behind 36-35 by the intermission.
Things went back and forth the entire second half, with Southeast's biggest lead five points and EKU's largest advantage two points.
Niki Avery's 3-pointer with 41 seconds left capped a 6-0 EKU run and gave the Colonels a 62-61 lead, but Nixon's follow layup proved to be the game-winner.
"We made the plays at the end when we had to," Ishee said. "We're finding ways to win."