Otahks wrap up test run with win

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University's women's basketball team let St. Louis Goldstar hang around for the first half Monday night.

Then the Otahkians put down the hammer and cruised to a 93-56 victory that marked the end of their two-game exhibition schedule.

"We were pretty sloppy most of the first half," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "The second half was much better."

By romping in front of nearly 600 fans at the Show Me Center, the Otahkians concluded their exhibition slate 2-0.

But those victories won't be reflected in the record when the Otahkians open the season Friday night at Utah --No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today preseason top 25 --in the first round of the Women's Preseason NIT. Is Southeast ready for the powerful Utes?

"We're ready for a game," Smith said. "I don't know if we're ready for Utah."

Added Smith, more seriously, "We're not looking for moral victories. My plan is we're going to go win. I want our players to believe that."

Said senior guard Kenja White, who scored 12 of her game-high 17 points Monday night in the second half, "I think we're ready."

The Otahkians appeared ready at the outset Monday as they scored the game's first seven points. But Goldstar, a team of former collegians that had only eight players in uniform and was missing three normal starters, would not go down without a fight.

Goldstar trailed just 25-17 with under eight minutes left in the opening period and was behind only 42-29 at halftime.

But the second half was no contest. The Otahkians quickly opened up a 30-point lead and coasted.

"We played a lot better in the second half," White said.

Junior-college transfer guard Sami Jo Cotton scored 15 points and had four assists. Senior forward Yashika Sidbury added 14 points, junior-college transfer center Chandra Brown had 13 points and eight rebounds, and senior guard Sarah Costello contributed 10 points and seven assists. Senior forward Carina Souza grabbed 10 rebounds.

"We're not where we want to be. We have to put two halves together," Cotton said. "I really hope we're ready to play Friday. We have to be."

Sandy Fletcher, who played for the Otahkians when they finished second in the 1991 NCAA Division II national tournament, led Goldstar with 12 points. She said the visitors were noticeably tired following Sunday night's 64-62 loss at Southern Illinois.

"We were missing three starters, and we ran out of gas after last night," Fletcher said. "But SEMO has some really good players, a lot of athletes. I think they'll have an excellent team."

Southeast shot 48.6 percent from the field (35 of 72) and held Goldstar to 43.1-percent (22 of 51). The Otahkians also forced 29 turnovers but they had 18 of their own. Southeast committed 19 turnovers during Thursday's 84-66 win over NAIA power Union (Tenn.).

"We still had way too many turnovers," Smith said.

Now the Otahkians will set aim on pulling off a major upset Friday night. Utah returns all five starters from last year's 24-7 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the Utes have been ranked as high as No. 9 nationally in the preseason polls.

"Some people are picking them as a darkhorse for the final four," Smith said. "They're the best team I've seen on tape since I've been here, not the most talented, but the best team.

"They're really good and the whole team can shoot it. It's going to be a big challenge for us."


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