Southeast's full cast topples Samford

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Redhawks ' top scorers and rebounders returned to the lineup in Tuesday's 69-60 victory.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Sonya Daugherty was glad to be back on the basketball court.

So was Missy Whitney.

And Southeast Missouri State was more than happy to have its top two players back.

Daugherty and Whitney returned from absences to help the Redhawks start off their toughest stretch of the season with a 69-60 win over host Samford on Tuesday night.

Southeast, the two-time defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion, improved to 6-5 overall and 2-1 in league play.

Samford, picked second in the OVC preseason poll -- behind Southeast -- fell to 6-4 and 0-2.

"This is a great win for us," said Southeast coach John Ishee, whose squad began a stretch that features six of seven conference games on the road. "We needed it."

Daugherty, a junior wing player who entered Tuesday's contest as Southeast's top scorer and No. 2 rebounder with averages of 14.8 points and 5.2 boards, was not on the bench for the Redhawks' last game.

Ishee termed Daugherty's absence "an internal issue."

But Daugherty eventually got back in Ishee's good graces. She did not start Tuesday but played 35 minutes and led the Redhawks with 21 points.

"I missed it, the whole thing. ... not being on the bench with my team," said Daugherty, who added six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Daugherty normally does the majority of her scoring on drives to the basket or mid-range shots, but she burned Samford from long distance.

Daugherty made 4-of-5 3-pointers, after entering play just 11-of-34 (32.4 percent) from beyond the arc.

"They were taking my drive away, so I shot more 3-pointers," Daugherty said.

Ishee also liked the fact Daugherty made half of her shots overall (8-of-16). She had been shooting 36.2 percent on the season.

"I'm really proud of Sonya, not that she scored 21 points, but that she scored 21 points in the context of the offense," Ishee said.

Whitney, the OVC preseason player of the year, is Southeast's No. 2 scorer and top rebounder with averages of 12.5 points and six boards prior to Tuesday.

Whitney suffered a foot injury Dec. 2 at Purdue and missed Southeast's previous two games, a pair of OVC home contests the Redhawks split.

Like Daugherty, Whitney did not start Tuesday but played 22 minutes. The senior center contributed seven points and eight rebounds.

"I was glad to be back. It's so hard watching from the bench," Whitney said.

Whitney did not originally anticipate returning so soon, saying team trainer Amanda Martin "didn't think I would come back that quick."

Added Whitney: "But I wanted to tough it out. I knew the team needed me. I wouldn't say I was at the top of my game, but it [the foot] didn't feel too bad."

Southeast junior point guard Tarina Nixon, who had a career-high eight assists while adding seven points and three steals in 38 minutes, said, "It was great to have Sonya and Missy back. They just give us so much confidence as a team."

Added Ishee, whose squad won its second straight game: "We're the type of team that needs contributions from everybody, so it was nice to have Sonya and Missy back."

Junior forward Rachel Blunt continued her strong play for the Redhawks with 16 points, 13 in the first half. All four of her double-figure scoring performances this season have come in the past five games.

Blunt hit 6-of-10 shots, including 3-of-5 3-pointers, after she had been shooting just 35.7 percent overall and 27.8 percent from beyond the arc.

"Rachel helped us get the lead in the first half," said Ishee, whose squad led by 13 points several times in the opening period and was ahead 33-31 at the break.

Junior college transfer forward Crysta Glenn added eight points and tied Whitney for game-high rebounding honors with eight as she played 32 minutes in her second start.

Ishee also lauded the contributions of junior college transfer guard Tierra Johnson, who added six points off the bench.

"Crysta and Tierra both came up big," Ishee said. "It was a total team effort."

Southeast led most of the way, but fell behind 41-35 early in the second half.

It was 56-56 with just over five minutes left, but the Redhawks recorded the next 10 points as they held the Bulldogs scoreless for more than four minutes.

Daugherty's 3-pointer with 4:49 remaining put Southeast up for good at 59-56.

The Redhawks made 8-of-10 free throws in the final 1:25, with Nixon hitting 5-of-6.

"It's a very big win for us," Nixon said. "It's a great way to start the road trip."

Southeast made 9-of-18 3-pointers, after shooting just 28.9 percent from beyond the arc in its first 10 games.

"We got inside-outside movement and good ball reversal," Ishee said. "That allowed us to take good 3-point shots."

The Redhawks play at Jacksonville (Ala.) State on Thursday.

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