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Redhawks ready to gain ground
The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team appears to have a strong chance of regaining momentum at home.
Coach John Ishee plans on that happening, but he cautions against taking this week's opponents lightly.
Southeast hosts Jacksonville State today and Tennessee Tech on Saturday in a pair of 5:30 p.m. tipoffs at the Show Me Center.
Today's contest will be played as scheduled despite the winter storm that has hit the area.
JSU (4-15, 1-8) is ninth in the 10-team Ohio Valley Conference, while Tech (4-16, 2-7) is eighth.
The Redhawks (9-10, 5-4) are sixth following Saturday's 80-65 loss at first-place Murray State.
"We've got a chance to build some momentum at home, get back on a winning track," said Ishee, whose squad has won five of its last seven games. "But it won't be easy this week.
"Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech don't have very good records, but they'll be tough opponents."
Southeast won OVC regular-season titles in Ishee's first two years.
Saturday's loss at Murray State put a serious crimp in the Redhawks' hopes for a three-peat under Ishee.
The Racers lead Southeast by three games in the standings exactly halfway through the league schedule.
"It's probably Murray's to lose now," Ishee said of the OVC race. "But there's a lot of basketball left to be played."
If Southeast can't win another OVC regular-season title, the Redhawks at least want to make sure they finish in the top four, which means a first-round home game in the conference tournament.
Southeast is just one game out of fourth place and only two games removed from second place.
"We're sixth, but we've got two home games this week and some teams ahead of us have two road games," Ishee said. "It's a huge week for us."
Southeast has a much better record in OVC road games than at home over the past season-and-a-half as the Redhawks had a 16-game conference road winning streak snapped at Murray State.
Considering that, Ishee was asked if it's really that important to play at home in the opening round of the OVC tournament. He didn't blink.
"As well as we play on the road, we want to get a home game for the tournament," Ishee said. "It's always better to play at home."
The Redhawks posted their most lopsided victory of the season when they routed Jacksonville State 82-60 on Jan. 5 in Jacksonville, Ala.
Still, Ishee said, "They're a dangerous team because offensively they can put up points. When we played there, they had two potential starters who didn't dress. I don't look for an easy game."
The Gamecocks, who have lost eight of nine, are led by one of the OVC's better inside players. Joli Efezokhae, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, averages 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Efezokhae had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting with Southeast.
"She's an excellent player," Ishee said.
Brittany Wiley, a 5-11 freshman forward, carries a 10.2 average, but leads the team in OVC play at 13.1.
"She's been playing really well for them," Ishee said. "Their talent level is good."
Southeast beat Tennessee Tech 56-41 on Jan. 3 in Cookeville, Tenn., in a game that was tight until the Redhawks pulled away late.
"We'll have to play well to defend our home court this week," Ishee said.