Southeast women grab a share of first place
Friday, February 9, 2007
Southeast Missouri State's women have had their share of problems on the road this season, which is not unusual in college basketball.
But there has been no place like home for the Redhawks.
Southeast continued its Show Me Center dominance Thursday night, beating Morehead State 84-70 to pull into a first-place Ohio Valley Conference tie.
The Redhawks and Eagles both have 11-4 OVC records, as does Murray State. All three teams have five league games remaining. The only contest left between the contenders is Saturday, when Murray hosts Morehead.
"It's a great race," Southeast acting head coach John Ishee said.
Southeast, which improved to 16-7 overall, is 8-0 in OVC home games compared to 3-4 on the road.
"It's a pride thing, definitely," junior guard Ashley Lovelady said of playing at home. "You don't want anybody stealing something from you."
For the third time this season, the Redhawks avenged a conference road loss. Morehead (12-12) beat visiting Southeast 68-58 on Jan. 24.
The rematch had the makings of a contest that would not be decided until the final minutes.
But Southeast came up with a game-changing 12-0 run midway through the second half and the Redhawks were able to comfortably hold off the Eagles.
"It was a good game. Both teams played well," Lovelady said. "We knew they'd be tough, but we were prepared and we knew what we had to do to win."
A big factor was the play of junior forward Missy Whitney, who bounced back from her worst statistical performance of the season.
Whitney, arguably the leading candidate for OVC newcomer of the year honors, scored a season-low two points during Saturday's loss at Tennessee-Martin, where she hit one of nine field goal attempts.
But there was no stopping Whitney on Thursday. She scored 28 points, which is her second-highest total during her rookie season at Southeast, trailing only a 36-point outburst in December.
Whitney, a transfer from Three Rivers Community College, added 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season, and third in her last four games.
"My shots weren't falling [Saturday], and I had to kind of get back in rhythm," said Whitney, a Charleston High School graduate who hit eight of 12 field goals and 12 of 14 free throws. "I kind of felt it early. I can usually tell."
Lovelady and sophomore guard Tarina Nixon each added 14 points. Lovelady hit five of six shots, while Nixon had a team-high four assists.
Sophomore guard Sonya Daugherty scored all 12 of her points in the second half.
Senior center Lachelle Lyles, the nation's leading rebounder, had her sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Lyles, averaging 17 rebound per game entering the contest, missed the first meeting with Morehead because of a death in the family.
"We had a lot of people contribute, and it was nice to have Lachelle against them this time," Ishee said.
Although Southeast built a 25-16 lead midway through the opening half, the Redhawks were ahead just 35-34 at the break.
After eight lead changes and three ties, the Redhawks finally went ahead for good, 58-56, on Lovelady's 3-pointer with 10:34 remaining.
That started a 12-0 run for Southeast, ending with a follow shot by Lyles at the 7:56 mark to open up a 67-56 advantage.
The closest Morehead got was 77-70 in the last 2 minutes, but Southeast scored the game's final seven points.
"It's a big win for us," Whitney said. "We want to win the conference and we knew how important this game was."
Southeast had only four turnovers, held a 39-28 rebounding edge, shot 50 percent in the second half and made 30 of 38 free throws in the game.
All of that helped offset Morehead's hot shooting. The Eagles hit 48.2 percent from the field and made 11 of 27 3-pointers (40.7 percent).
"I thought for the most part we guarded them pretty well," Ishee said. "They just made shots."
Junior guard Tara Combs nailed seven of 10 3-pointers and led the Eagles with 25 points. Senior forward LaKrisha Brown added 20 points.