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Otahkians end trip with win
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Southeast Missouri State University found the perfect opponent to cure its recent ills.
The Otahkians, losers of three straight games including Thursday's blowout at Jacksonville State, wrapped up their Alabama road trip Saturday by routing Samford 71-43.
Southeast, which has played four consecutive road contests and now comes home for three straight, improved to 9-10 overall and 4-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Samford fell to 8-11 and 1-7.
"It's nice to finally win again, and now we've got three straight home games, so hopefully we can get a streak going," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "Samford is not a very good team, but we needed this one. It's going to make that bus trip seem a lot shorter."
Said senior guard Kenja White: "It's good to win again after losing all those games. Now we have to keep it up and start winning a lot of games."
Samford, a first-year OVC member, lost a non-conference home game to Southeast last season by 41 points. The Bulldogs -- in 10th place out of 11 league teams -- didn't fare a whole lot better Saturday.
The Otahkians built a 36-13 halftime lead and withstood one minor Samford rally early in the second half, as the Bulldogs scored the first 10 points to pull within 36-23. But Samford got no closer.
White paced the Otahkians with 18 points and a team-high six steals. She had a perfect shooting night, hitting four of four field goals -- including her only 3-point attempt -- and nine of nine free throws.
Junior guard Sami Jo Cotton scored 15 points for Southeast and junior center Chandra Brown added 12.
Freshman forward Alex Munday led Samford with 17 points.
Stifling defense helped the Otahkians' cause, as they limited Samford to 31.1-percent shooting (14 of 45) and forced 32 turnovers. The Bulldogs had 19 first-half turnovers and shot 15.8 percent (three of 19). Southeast was credited with 19 steals in the game.
"I thought we guarded and pressured a lot better than we have been, especially in the first half," Smith said. "That's the best defense we've played since I've been here. They run that Princeton style offense, but we really guarded and made thing tough on them."
Offensively, the Otahkians shot 44.2 percent (23 of 52), including 48.1 percent in the opening period (13 of 27). Southeast finished the game with 21 turnovers.
Southeast returns to action Thursday as Tennessee-Martin visits the Show Me Center.
"We've been on the road for a while and it's going to be nice to play at home again," Cotton said.