Southeast women look to rebound from loss in OVC opener

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team lost only three regular-season Ohio Valley Conference games last year.

A squad responsible for one of the defeats will visit the Show Me Center today for a 5:30 p.m. game, Tennessee State will be a bit short-handed but still dangerous, according to Southeast coach John Ishee.

"They're very talented and they beat us here last year," Ishee said.

The Redhawks figure to have an added sense of urgency after they began defense of their OVC regular-season championship with a home loss.

Austin Peay upset Southeast 61-50 on Thursday.

"We just didn't play very well," said Ishee, whose squad fell to 3-3 with its third straight loss. "It's only one game, but we're going to have to get better in every facet of the game."

TSU has made tremendous strides since going 0-27 in 2005-06.

After winning seven games the following year, the Tigers improved to 13-16 overall and a fifth-place 10-10 in the OVC last season.

The Tigers were picked fourth in this year's preseason OVC poll and received three first-place votes.

That's the same number of first-place votes as Southeast, which captured OVC regular-season titles in Ishee's first two years at the school. The Redhawks are the preseason No. 3 pick.

"They've come a long way with their program," Ishee said.

But TSU, which was routed at highly regarded Eastern Illinois 83-45 in its OVC opener and is 2-5 overall, will have to overcome a major loss to be a conference contender.

Obiageli Okafor, one of the OVC's top insider players, is out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury suffered before the campaign started.

Okafor earned second-team all-conference honors last season as she ranked fifth in the league in scoring and fourth in rebounding with averages of 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds.

"She was a very good player, and I know they'll miss her," Ishee said. "But they've still got a lot of talent."

The Tigers retain one of the OVC's premier players in 5-foot-7 senior guard Kendra Appling, a first-team all-conference selection as a junior after ranking third in the league in scoring with a 17.7 average.

"She's a great player," Ishee said.

Appling is leading the Tigers at 15 points per game.

Also in double figures is 6-0 senior forward Tiffany Jackson (14.4 ppg), who has helped pick up the offensive slack left by Okafor's absence.

Southeast also could be short-handed again after senior wing Sonya Daugherty -- the Redhawks' No. 2 scorer with a 13.2 average -- missed the Austin Peay game with a knee injury. Her status for today is undetermined.

While TSU's 61-49 win over Southeast at the Show Me Center in last year's OVC opener might be extra incentive for the Redhawks to play well, Ishee said their main incentive should come from the way they performed Thursday.

"We just have to bounce back and play well," Ishee said.

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