Otahkians try to rebound from Tech loss

Saturday, January 24, 2004

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State University's women won't have a chance to break Austin Peay's long Ohio Valley Conference winning streak today.

But the Otahkians will have an opportunity to propel themselves right back into the thick of the OVC race.

The Otahkians (8-8, 3-2) were down in the dumps following Thursday night's 65-57 loss at Tennessee Tech that began their important two-game road trip.

But their spirits were no doubt lifted a while later when they learned that Eastern Illinois had upset Austin Peay 72-71 to end the Governors' 26-game OVC winning streak.

So Southeast has a golden opportunity to climb back toward the top of the conference standings when they face the defending champion Govs (10-6, 4-1) at 5 p.m. at the Dunn Center.

"We're really disappointed that we lost to Tech, but Austin Peay losing to Eastern at least doesn't put us in as big of a hole as we might have been in," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "But either way, it's still a really big game for us."

The Otahkians figure it's about time they beat the Govs. Austin Peay defeated Southeast 64-54 in the OVC opener on Jan. 8 at the Show Me Center. The Govs also beat the Otahkians three times last season on their way to an undefeated conference record and the OVC tournament title.

"We're really looking forward to this game," junior guard Sami Jo Cotton said. "We were disappointed with the way we played against them the last time."

"They've beaten us all four times since I've been here," said Smith, in his second season at Southeast. "It would be nice to get them for a change."

Southeast was picked as the OVC favorite in the preseason coaches' poll, with Austin Peay a close second. Despite losing OVC player of the year Brooke Armistead, the Govs don't appear to have dropped off much.

"They're a tough team," Cotton said.

Said Smith: "They're maybe not quite as good as they were last year, but they're still very good. They play well together and they don't make a lot of mistakes. They're just solid."

Austin Peay features one of the league's premier post players in senior Gerlonda Hardin, who is averaging 15.5 points per game while shooting a conference-best 58 percent from the field.

"She's an excellent player and we've had a lot of trouble with her the last two years," Smith said. "We've worked really hard on our post defense lately in practice so hopefully we can do a better job on her."

Another top player for the Govs is sophomore forward Ashley Haynes, who is averaging 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Neither team shot well in the earlier meeting. The game was close most of the way before Austin Peay pulled away at the end.

Southeast will try rebound from the loss at Tennessee Tech that snapped a three-game winning streak. After apparently snapping out of their offensive funk in the three games following the Austin Peay loss, the Otahkians reverted back to their early-season ways Thursday.

"We were horrible offensively," Smith said.

Freshman guard Jessica Aebi was a bright spot in the defeat, as she scored a season-high 18 points.

"We have to put it behind us and try to bounce back against Austin Peay," Aebi said.

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