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Redhawks look to avenge last year's opening loss
TULSA HANDED Southeast a 13-point road loss a year ago.
Not many opponents beat the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team last year.
One of those few victors visit the Show Me Center tonight as the Redhawks open a new season.
The University of Tulsa handed Southeast a 67-54 defeat in last year's opener in Tulsa, Okla.
Southeast, coming off consecutive Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles, looks to return the favor in tonight's 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
"We're looking forward to it, after they beat us last year," senior center Missy Whitney said.
Whitney, the OVC's preseason player of the year, is one of four returning starters from last year's Southeast squad that went 24-8 for the program's best-ever Division I record.
The other returning regulars, who like Whitney (13.2 ppg) all averaged double-figure points, are junior forward Sonya Daugherty (14.2), junior guard Tarina Nixon (11.0) and senior guard Ashley Lovelady (10.1).
Nixon, the Redhawks' point guard, missed most of preseason practice and the exhibition game with a back injury, but coach John Ishee said he expects Nixon to play tonight.
Tulsa entered last season ranked 25th in one national poll, but the Golden Hurricane struggled, going 11-19 overall and 5-11 in Conference USA.
The Golden Hurricane lost most of their key players from a year ago, including All-American Jillian Robbins, who averaged nearly 20 points per game.
Tulsa returns just three letterwinners, who combined to average 12 points per game.
Larrissa Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center, made 16 starts last season. She averaged 4.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Teka Brooks, a 6-1 sophomore forward, made eight starts and averaged 4.5 points, while 5-6 sophomore point guard Destanie Gardner made 11 starts and averaged 2.6 points.
Tulsa expects to be bolstered by several touted newcomers, led by 6-3 junior forward Chanel Johnson, a transfer from Alabama.
Johnson was a two-year letterwinner at Alabama, although she averaged just 1.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 45 games.
"What concerns me the most about Tulsa is their size," Ishee said. "They have great side inside."
Ishee, in his second season at Southeast, expects a tough opening test despite the fact Tulsa is picked to finish 10th in the 12-team Conference USA.
"We'll have to play well. They present a lot of challenges," he said. "But we'll present some challenges for them."
Lovelady said the Redhawks are happy to finally get the season started.
"Oh yes, we're tired of practicing," she said. "We're excited to get going."