Southeast women attempt to snap EIU's home winning streak

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team will have to end a long home-court winning streak to sweep the season series from Eastern Illinois.

EIU has posted 18 straight victories at Lantz Arena entering today's 3 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference matchup with the Redhawks.

And the Redhawks know EIU will have extra motivation against Southeast, which rallied past the Panthers 58-51 on Jan. 10 in Cape Girardeau.

"It's turned into a pretty big rivalry," senior point guard Tarina Nixon said.

Southeast (12-10, 7-4), which has won eight of its past 10 games, is in sixth place in the 10-team OVC, but the Redhawks are only one-half game out of fourth place.

EIU (16-7, 9-2) is in second place, just a half-game behind Murray State. The Panthers, 11-0 at home this season, have the nation's sixth-longest current home winning streak.

"We've developed a really big rivalry with them the last few years," said Southeast coach John Ishee, whose squad lost to EIU in the semifinals of last year's OVC tournament. "They knocked us out of the conference tournament last year and kept us from having a shot to make the NCAA tournament.

"And since we beat them at our place earlier, I'm sure they'll be wanting to get back at us for that."

The Redhawks used an impressive second-half defensive performance to win the first meeting with EIU.

Southeast fell behind by 13 points in the first half and still trailed 31-22 at the break.

The Redhawks outscored EIU 36-20 in the second half, although they didn't take the lead for good until less than two minutes remained.

"We had a really solid defensive effort in our game here," Ishee said. "I think our pressure in the full court negated Rachel Galligan's touches."

Galligan, a 6-foot-2 senior center, is arguably the OVC's premier inside player.

But Galligan, averaging 16.1 points per game and leading the OVC in field-goal percentage at 53.9, was held to 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting against Southeast last month.

EIU leads the OVC in many of the major statistical categories, including all three on the defensive end -- scoring defense (56.7 points per game allowed), field-goal percentage defense (35.3) and 3-point field-goal percentage defense (26.7).

In addition, the Panthers top the OVC offensively in field-goal percentage (44.2) and 3-point field-goal percentage (35.7). They rank second in rebounding margin at plus 5.4 per game.

"They're playing really well," Ishee said. "They've got a very good team, a very physical team."

Southeast, which won OVC regular-season titles in Ishee's first two seasons, will be hard-pressed to make it three straight since the Redhawks trail first-place Murray State by three games on the loss side.

But the Redhawks are at worst trying to position themselves for a top-four OVC finish, which means a first-round home date for the conference tournament.

The Redhawks have seven OVC games remaining, with just two of those at home.

"This time of the year, every game is big," Ishee said. "We're trying to jockey for position in the conference.

"Our schedule is not conducive, with five of our last seven on the road. But we play several teams ahead of us in the standings. It's all in front of us, but we'll have to do it on the road."

That really hasn't been much of a problem for the Redhawks, who had a 16-game OVC road winning streak snapped recently at Murray State.

"We have played well on the road, but you still always like your chances better at home," Ishee said.

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