Otahks face challenge in No. 11 Kansas State

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University's brutal early-season women's basketball schedule continues today as the Otahkians face their third nationally ranked team.

No. 11 Kansas State (7-2) will provide the opposition with a 5 p.m. tipoff in the University of Texas-San Antonio New Year's Classic.

Win or lose, the Otahkians (4-5) will play Alcorn State (1-5) at 2 p.m. Wednesday as the four-team event concludes.

"It sure doesn't get any easier for us," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said.

The Otahkians have already lost at No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 21 Utah. They were also defeated at powerful Southwest Missouri State, which received five votes in this week's Associated Press poll.

Southeast has also suffered a pair of unexpected defeats, at Lipscomb and against Bowling Green in the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tournament.

"We're just not a very good basketball team right now," Smith said. "But I still feel good about our team and I know that playing the kind of schedule we've played is going to help us get ready for the conference season. At least now we're finding out our weaknesses and what we need to work on."

Southeast was routed at Southwest Missouri 87-59 in its most recent game, but the Otahkians did have some bright spots as Carina Souza and Yashika Sidbury -- two of the squad's top scorers last season -- had 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Souza had been averaging just five points, although she was shooting 56 percent from the field, while Sidbury had been in a big shooting slump, hitting just 26 percent and averaging 5.5 points.

Shooting as a whole has plagued the Otahkians so far as they are hitting well under 40 percent, including less than 30 percent from 3-point range.

"I still think we've got good shooters," Smith said. "We just haven't shot it well yet."

Smith knows the Otahkians will face a huge challenge against Kansas State, which has lost only to No. 7 Purdue and No. 10 Penn State.

The Wildcats feature plenty of size and skill, including 6-foot-5 senior center Nicole Ohlde, a first-team preseason All-American who is averaging 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 55 percent.

Kendra Wecker, a 5-11 junior forward, averages a team-high 16.9 points and is shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Laurie Koehn, a 5-8 junior guard, averages 15.1 points and is hitting 48 percent of her 3-point attempts.

"They'll be a tremendous team, one of the best in the country," said Smith of the Wildcats, who are outscoring their opponents by more than 21 points per game.

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