Otahks find the range against Tech

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University's Otahkians finally broke out of their offensive funk Saturday.

And it's a good thing because they needed virtually all of their season-high point total to survive a major scare from visiting Tennessee Tech.

The Eaglettes rallied from a 17-point deficit with nine minutes left in regulation to force overtime, but the Otahkians controlled the five-minute extra session as they posted a thrilling 102-90 victory.

Southeast improved to 6-7 overall and 1-1 in Ohio Valley Conference play by beating Tech for the fourth straight time and rebounding from Thursday's home loss to Austin Peay. The Eaglettes fell to 5-7 and 1-1.

"We needed a 'W,'" senior point guard Sarah Costello said.

The Otahkians entered the game shooting 35.9 percent from the field and 27.2 percent from 3-point range as they were averaging just 62.4 points per contest.

Saturday, Southeast shot 64.8 percent, including 58.8 percent from beyond the arc. A big part of the Otahkians' offensive success was that they got good shots most of the game.

"I think we played together and we took what was open," senior guard Kenja White said. "It felt good to hit some shots."

A relieved coach

Nobody felt better about the Otahkians' offensive outburst than second-year coach B.J. Smith, whose standout teams at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College averaged in the 100-point range.

"I can't tell you how pleased I am offensively, to go from where we were 48 hours ago," Smith said. "We talked about better shot selection and pushing the ball. Sarah really pushed the ball and had a great game, and Kenja drove to the basket.

"At NEO, we averaged 100 points a game. This is the first time we've scored 100 points since I've been here. This is how our offense is supposed to look."

White scored a career-high 29 points as she hit 12 of 16 shots, mostly on drives to the basket as she consistently used her quickness to blow by the Eaglettes. She was Southeast's Copi-Rite player of the game.

"I drove a lot more tonight and everything was falling," White said.

Costello, Southeast's point guard, also scored a career-high as she put in 21 points to go along with six assists, six rebounds and three steals while committing just two turnovers.

Junior guard Sami Jo Cotton, a first-year Otahkian, scored 22 points as she also reached a Southeast career high. Cotton continued her recent hot 3-point shooting by making five of eight.

Senior forward Yashika Sidbury came off the bench to score 15 points and grab six rebounds. She hit all three of her 3-pointers.

Tech also had quite an offensive performance, led by sophomore center Emily Christian, the OVC's leading scorer. Christian, averaging 19.2 points, poured in 35 as she hit 12 of 22 shots.

For all their offensive success, the Otahkians could never put the Eaglettes away despite building a 77-60 lead with nine minutes left.

The Eaglettes, who never led, chipped away and finally tied the contest at 87-87 on Christian's 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds remaining.

Costello could have put things out of reach but she made just one of four foul shots in the final 11 seconds, which left the door open.

White drove for a basket just six seconds into overtime and the Otahkians never looked back. Four straight Costello points opened up a 95-88 lead and Southeast coasted home.

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