Southeast hosts Panthers in battle for first place

Thursday, February 14, 2008
Southeast's Crysta Glenn went up for a shot during a game against Tennessee State earlier this season. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

The Redhawks lead Eastern Illinois by percentage points.

There still will be big games left to play.

But the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team can take a major step toward its third straight Ohio Valley Conference title today.

As far as games late in the regular season, things don't get much bigger than the 5 p.m. tipoff with Eastern Illinois at the Show Me Center.

The Redhawks (17-6, 12-2) lead the OVC, but only by percentage points over EIU (14-10, 13-3), which has played two more conference games.

A Southeast win, however, would put the Redhawks two games ahead of the Panthers in the loss column.

"It's a huge game for us," Southeast coach John Ishee said. "It won't give us the championship if we win, but it would definitely be a big step for us, and would give us a little separation from Eastern Illinois."

The Redhawks still have a home date with third-place Samford (18-6, 11-3), which is one game behind Southeast.

The Redhawks already have beaten both EIU and Samford on the road, where Southeast is 9-0 in OVC play.

"We've done great on the road, but it will be nice to be at home," senior guard Ashley Lovelady said.

Southeast plays five of its final six games at the Show Me Center, the lone exception being Saturday's contest at Tennessee-Martin.

The Redhawks have won eight straight games and 13 of their last 14, but they are just 3-2 in OVC home contests.

"We're rolling pretty good, and hopefully we can continue that at home," Ishee said. "But we've still got a lot of tough games left."

That includes today, as the Panthers have put together a strong season after not making the eight-team OVC tournament last year.

"They're having a great season," said Ishee, whose squad handed EIU its first conference loss, 55-51 on Jan. 5 in Charleston, Ill.

EIU features the OVC's No. 2 scorer in 6-foot-2 junior center Rachel Galligan, who averages 18.8 points per game and shoots 56.5 percent from the field.

During OVC play, Galligan's 21.4 scoring average ranks first, and she is shooting a sizzling 61.2 percent.

The Panthers also have the OVC's second-rated 3-point shooter in 5-10 sophomore guard Dominique Sims, who is hitting 46.3 percent (25-of-54) from beyond the arc.

Ishee expects to regain the services of senior center Missy Whitney, Southeast's leading scorer and rebounder who missed the last two games with an elbow injury.

Ishee said Whitney will play today, but whether she starts or comes off the bench still is to be determined.

Ishee also hopes to have the services of plenty of fans.

"Hopefully people will come out and support us," Ishee said. "It's a very big game, and we can use all the help from the crowd we can get."

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