Redhawks try to continue perfect run in OVC road games

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Now that Southeast Missouri State has moved to the top of the Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball standings, the Redhawks don't want to relinquish their post.

This week's road trip to Kentucky will go a long way toward determining whether that happens.

The Redhawks play at Morehead State in a 4:15 p.m. tipoff today, then visit Eastern Kentucky at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

After this week, the Redhawks finish with five of their final six OVC games at the Show Me Center.

"Those are going to be two hard games," senior guard Ashley Lovelady said. "We'll have to come ready to play both of them."

Southeast coach John Ishee likes the position the Redhawks have put themselves in as they chase their third consecutive OVC regular-season title.

The Redhawks (15-6, 10-2) have won six straight games, and 11 of their last 12.

Southeast has overtaken Eastern Illinois -- which has one more OVC win, but one more conference loss than the Redhawks -- despite having played seven of its first 12 league games on the road.

After this week, the remaining schedule favors the Redhawks. But Ishee knows they still have to get the job done on the court.

"I think we're in good shape, but we have a lot of work ahead of us," Ishee said. "There's a lot of basketball left to be played.

"We've survived a lot of road games so far, and we need to survive two more this week."

The Redhawks have done more than survive their early run of conference games away from home.

Southeast has thrived on the road, going 7-0 in that department during OVC play. The Redhawks are just 3-2 in league games at home.

"For whatever reason, we've done much better on the road than at home so far," Ishee said. "I really can't explain it, other than we have a lot of experienced players."

Ishee figures the Redhawks will be challenged by both MSU (7-14, 5-7) and EKU (10-8, 5-6).

MSU is eighth among 11 OVC squads, while EKU is sixth. The top eight finishers qualify for the conference tournament, with the top four earning first-round home games.

MSU, today's opponent, has lost four of its last five games, including a 66-58 defeat at Southeast on Jan. 24.

But the Eagles were competitive with the Redhawks in that contest, and they feature some dangerous players.

Senior guard Tarah Combs averages three made 3-pointers per game -- second in the conference -- and averages 10.9 points, while freshman guard Chynna Bozeman leads the Eagles with a 12.3 average.

Brittany Pittman, a 6-foot-3 sophomore center who started her career at Middle Tennessee State, already has broken the OVC single-season record for blocked shots with 82, which ranks among the national leaders.

Pittman also leads the OVC in rebounding with a 9.5 average.

As a team, MSU tops the league with 170 made 3-pointers, which ranks among the national leaders, although the Eagles shoot just 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.

"They're young, but they're talented," Ishee said. "They're very dangerous."

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