Panthers tame Redhawks

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Eastern Illinois women's basketball team had little trouble extending one of the nation's longest home-court winning streaks.

EIU's fun came at Southeast Missouri State's expense.

The Panthers pulled away from a six-point halftime lead Saturday and rolled to a 73-53 victory in Charleston, Ill.

EIU has won 19 straight games at Lantz Arena as the Panthers entered the weekend with the nation's sixth-longest current home winning streak.

The Panthers, 12-0 at home this season, improved to 17-7 overall and 10-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Preseason OVC favorite EIU is in second place, one-half game behind Murray State.

"They're a really good team, especially at home," said Southeast coach John Ishee, whose squad beat EIU 58-51 on Jan. 10 in Cape Girardeau.

Southeast, which had won eight of its previous 10 games, fell to 12-11 overall and 7-5 in the OVC. The Redhawks remained sixth in the 10-team conference.

A tight first half featured 10 lead changes and four ties before EIU scored the final five points to go up 32-26 at the break. That represented the biggest margin of the opening period for either side.

The Panthers built a 15-point advantage over the first seven minutes of the second half and stayed in control the rest of the way. Their biggest lead was 23 points.

"We were right there with them for a half. The second half it just snowballed on us," Ishee said. "They were a much better team than we were today.

"It's very disappointing because I felt like we played pretty good basketball since Dec. 29 [when Southeast lost at Missouri to fall to 4-8]. We continued to grow as a team, but I thought today we took a step back."

Four players scored in double figures for EIU, led by senior center Rachel Galligan with 18 points.

Senior guard Megan Edwards followed with 17 points as she hit all five of her 3-point attempts.

EIU, the OVC's top-shooting team both overall and from 3-point range, hit 51.1 percent from the field and a sizzling 62.5 percent of its 3-pointers (10 of 16).

The Panthers' season averages entering Saturday were 44.2 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.

EIU also blocked 11 Southeast shots and outrebounded the Redhawks 35-27.

"We couldn't guard them inside, and when they're shooting the ball the way they shot it on the perimeter, they're just really tough to beat," Ishee said.

Senior forward Rachel Blunt led Southeast with a season-high 17 points as she played all 40 minutes. Blunt also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

Blunt had been averaging 5.5 points and had not scored more than 12 points in a game this year.

Freshman guard Bianca Beck had the best offensive performance of her young college career with 11 points as she made all four of her field goals, including three from 3-point range.

Beck, who was averaging two points, had not scored more than six points in a game this season.

But some of Southeast's primary offensive threats struggled.

Senior guard Tarina Nixon, the Redhawks' top scorer this season with a 13.3 average before Saturday, had just six points on 3-of-12 shooting.

Nixon went scoreless in the first half, missing all seven of her shots.

Senior wing Sonya Daugherty, right behind Nixon with a 12-point average entering the game, totaled seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.

The Redhawks shot 37.7 percent, including 26.3 percent from 3-point range (5 of 19).

Southeast played its second straight game without sophomore wing Lauren Sharpe, the OVC leader in steals who did not dress because of a sternum injury.

"I think we'll know more [about the injury] in the next couple of days," Ishee said.

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