Redhawks hold on for 55-51 road win

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Southeast won despite Whitney only playing 14 minutes.

CHARLESTON, Ill. -- Somebody finally found a way to slow down the surprising Eastern Illinois women's basketball team.

It was Southeast Missouri State, which is now about as hot as the Panthers had been.

Southeast snapped EIU's six-game winning streak and handed the Panthers their first Ohio Valley Conference loss, 55-51 on Saturday.

The two-time defending OVC champion Redhawks (9-5, 4-1) pushed their own winning streak to five and moved within a half-game of the first-place Panthers (6-8, 5-1).

"It's a huge win," Southeast coach John Ishee said.

And it wasn't easy as Southeast and EIU waged a tense battle that featured four ties, 12 lead changes and no advantage bigger than six points.

"It was a great game by both teams," Southeast junior point guard Tarina Nixon said. "That was like a conference championship type of game."

Southeast won despite having its second-leading scorer and top rebounder, senior center Missy Whitney, play just 14 minutes because of foul trouble.

The Redhawks also prevailed despite having their leading scorer, junior wing Sonya Daugherty, shoot just 2-of-11 from the field and finish with seven points, which is more than eight below her average.

"You factor in that Missy plays 14 minutes and that Sonya shoots 2-of-11, and to still win. ... That makes it even more impressive," Ishee said.

Whitney still was able to just about match her scoring average with 12 points, and she added team highs of seven rebounds and three blocks.

"The little time I came in, I had to help out any way I could," said Whitney, who had nine second-half points. "This is a big win."

Nixon matched her season high with 17 points, 12 in the second half. She added five assists against just one turnover while playing all 40 minutes.

Junior forward Rachel Blunt, Southeast's No. 2 scorer in OVC play, added 11 points. She and Nixon both shot 5-of-10 from the field.

Blunt and Nixon also hit the game's biggest shots.

The squads were locked in a 43-43 tie when Blunt drilled a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.

After an EIU turnover, Nixon buried a 3-pointer at the 4:35 mark for a 49-43 lead, which matched the Redhawks' biggest advantage of the game. Their largest deficit was three points.

Although EIU pulled within one point and trailed by three with the ball in the final minute, the Redhawks never surrendered the lead.

Nixon's two free throws with 12 seconds left put Southeast up 54-49.

EIU made it 54-51, but Whitney's foul shot with 4.4 seconds left nailed down the victory.

"It feels good to come out on top," Nixon said.

Ishee credited Southeast's defense for playing a major role. EIU shot 34.7 percent overall, and made only 3-of-15 3-pointers (20 percent). The Panthers had been shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc.

"Overall, I thought our defense was very good," Ishee said.

Good enough to slow down the resurgent Panthers, who have endured nine straight losing OVC seasons.

And good enough to lift Southeast to its third consecutive OVC road win, as the Redhawks continued a rugged stretch that features six of seven conference games away from home.

After Murray State visits the Show Me Center on Monday, the Redhawks have three straight league road contests.

"We're just trying to keep our head above water and stay in the race," Ishee said.

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