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Without Lyles, Redhawks fall to third place
Southeast was outrebounded in a 68-58 loss at Morehead State.
MOREHEAD, Ky. -- Southeast Missouri State acting head coach John Ishee knew his team faced a tough battle even if senior center Lachelle Lyles had been available Wednesday.
That's why Ishee would not use Lyles' absence as an excuse after the Redhawks fell out of second place in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 68-58 loss at Morehead State.
Lyles, the nation's leading rebounder with an average of 16.8 per game, did not make the trip to Kentucky as she was in Dallas, Texas, for the funeral of an aunt to whom she was extremely close.
"It hurts not having Lachelle, but you have to play with what you've got," Ishee said. "They're the hottest team in the league and they're playing at home.
"They're a good team and we knew it would be a tough game with or without Lachelle. They just made more plays than we did."
The Redhawks, suffering just their second defeat in their last 12 games, fell to 13-6 overall and 8-3 in OVC play.
Southeast dipped into third place in the 11-team conference, while Morehead (10-9, 9-2) assumed sole possession of second place behind 8-1 Murray State.
The Eagles have won eight straight games.
"We missed Lachelle a lot, but we still have to step up," Southeast junior guard Ashley Lovelady said.
Not only were the Redhawks without Lyles, who averages 8.1 points per game, they spent much of the contest without their top inside scorer and No. 2 rebounder as junior forward Missy Whitney got into early foul trouble and played just 19 minutes.
Whitney entered with a team-leading average of 13.1 points per game, and her 7.7 rebounding average ranked sixth in the OVC.
Without Lyles, and with Whitney's court time limited, the Redhawks were outrebounded by a conference opponent for the first time this season as Morehead had a 42-33 advantage on the boards.
Southeast had been outrebounding the opposition by an average of 10.8 per game, which leads the league and ranks high nationally.
Whitney did just about match her averages with 13 points and seven rebounds, but with Lyles absent, the Redhawks could no doubt have used even more production from Whitney, who attempted just six field goals.
"I should have been smarter," Whitney said of her foul problems.
Probably more than rebounding, the Redhawks lost because of offensive woes.
Southeast shot just 32.1 percent (17 of 53). The Redhawks did much of their damage from the free-throw line, but they also struggled there somewhat, making 20 of 32 (62.5 percent).
"It was one of those nights," Lovelady said. "We weren't focused on our shot."
Southeast sophomore guard Sonya Daugherty, who on Monday was named the OVC co-player of the week, continued her recent offensive binge with a game-high 19 points. She also had a career-high five steals.
Daugherty entered the contest leading Southeast and ranking fourth in the OVC with a 15.2 scoring average during conference play.
"They were physical with us [defensively], and Sonya was the only guard we had who would penetrate," Ishee said.
Lovelady added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Southeast.
The Eagles were paced by senior forward Jessie Plante with 12 points and sophomore forward Brittany Bass with 10.
The Redhawks led 5-2 early, but the Eagles scored 10 straight points and stayed ahead the rest of the way.
Southeast, trailing 32-25 at halftime, fell behind 38-27 early in the second half.
Sophomore forward Rachel Blunt -- who started in place of Lyles -- hit a 3-pointer with 12 minutes, 41 seconds remaining to pull Southeast within 43-39.
Morehead answered with five straight points and pretty much had control the rest of the way.
The Eagles' biggest lead was 60-47 with less than 5 minutes to play. Blunt scored from in close with 1:02 left to make it 64-58, but Morehead iced the win with four straight free throws.