Bad week gets worse for defending OVC champions

Friday, December 7, 2007
Southeast Missouri State's Crysta Glenn drove past Tennessee State's Obiageli Okafor on a first-half shot Thursday at the Show Me Center. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Southeast women suffer a 61-49 upset loss at home to Tennessee St.

It has not been a good two days for the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball program.

It came out Wednesday that the NCAA decided in October that Southeast must vacate all its wins from the 2002-03 through 2005-06 seasons because of rules violations under the previous coaching staff.

Southeast will appeal the NCAA's decision, but if unsuccessful, the program likely will have to give up its 2005-06 Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament titles, plus its appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2006 would be wiped out.

Adding insult to injury, visiting Tennessee State pulled off a big upset in Thursday's OVC opener, beating the two-time defending league champion Redhawks 61-49.

SEMO's Szandra Pal drives past Tennessee State's Charisse Hicks during the first half of their game on Thursday, December 6, 2007. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Not only did TSU end a 10-game losing streak to the Redhawks, Southeast also had its 13-game home winning streak against conference opponents snapped.

"It's very disappointing. It's frustrating," said Southeast coach John Ishee, whose squad suffered is fifth straight loss and fell to 4-5. "But at the end of the day, it's my fault. I've got to get us to play better."

TSU (3-5) has finished either last or tied for last in the OVC five of the past six years, and the Tigers were 4-36 in league play the last two seasons.

But that mattered little Thursday as the Tigers capitalized on senior center Missy Whitney's absence and sloppy play by the Redhawks to beat Southeast for the first time since Jan. 31, 2002, a span of 10 games.

"It's a heartbreaker to start out like that," Southeast junior forward Rachel Blunt said. "But we have to give them credit because they beat us, obviously."

Southeast Missouri State's Tarina Nixon put up a long 2-point shot during the first half Thursday against Tennessee State at the Show Me Center. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Even though the Redhawks acknowledged they missed Whitney -- the OVC preseason player of the year who is out for a while after suffering a foot injury Sunday at Purdue -- they found it hard to blame the loss on her absence.

That's because Whitney doesn't usually handle the ball for extended periods of time, so it's hard to imagine she could have prevented many of Southeast's season-high 27 turnovers.

"You can't blame it on Missy [not playing]," Blunt said. "We just didn't execute. We had too many turnovers, missed opportunities. Our defense was horrible."

While the Redhawks have struggled in several areas this year, turnovers had not been one of them. They entered play averaging an OVC-low 12.8 turnover per game.

You wouldn't have known it by Thursday's performance, which featured 17 Southeast turnovers in the first half alone.

Southeast Missouri State's Rachel Blunt went after a rebound during the first half.

"That's the glaring stat that stands out," Ishee said. "When you turn the ball over, you don't get a chance to score."

Continued offensive woes also plagued the Redhawks, who shot 34.7 percent from the field (17-of-49), including 28.6 percent from 3-point range (4-of-14).

Southeast, which had not lost at home to an OVC opponent since late in the 2005-06 season, entered the contest shooting 33.5 percent from the floor and 28.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Said senior guard Ashley Lovelady: "We just have to keep shooting and sooner or later they'll start falling."

The Redhawks got strong performances from Blunt and junior college transfer forward Crysta Glenn.

Blunt scored a season-high 12 points, while Glenn had her first collegiate double-double with season highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Glenn had 12 points and seven boards in the second half.

"That's the best game Crysta has played," Ishee said.

Junior wing Sonya Daugherty added 12 points, three below her team-high average.

TSU, which shot 47.3 percent from the field (26-of-55), led most of the first half. It was 26-21 at the break.

Southeast pulled ahead by one point three times early in the second half as the Show Me Center crowd kept waiting for the Redhawks to take control.

They never could.

TSU, leading 38-36 midway through the period, steadily pulled away and opened up a 52-42 advantage with five minutes left.

The Redhawks got no closer than eight points the rest of the way and trailed by as many as 15 late.

Junior forward Obiageli Okafor led the Tigers with 16 points.

"I thought we competed hard. It was just our execution," Ishee said. "You've got to give them credit. They were just the better team tonight."

Southeast has another OVC home game Saturday, against Tennessee Tech at 5 p.m.

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