Southeast heartbreaker

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A heartbreaking loss has dealt a serious blow to Southeast Missouri State's hopes of hosting a first-round game in the Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball tournament.

Morehead State got a basket at the buzzer Saturday to stun the Redhawks 55-54 in Morehead, Ky.

Freshman point guard Courtney Lumpkin's shot from about 15 feet away came after the Eagles' second offensive rebound on their final possession.

"You can't give up two offensive rebounds and three shots and expect to win," Southeast coach John Ishee said. "Games like this, you really feel for the kids.

"They battled their rear ends off. Until the last play they deserved to win."

In a contest that was tight throughout -- there were 13 lead changes and nine ties -- senior point guard Tarina Nixon gave Southeast a 54-53 lead by sinking two free throws with 6.6 seconds remaining.

MSU went the length of the floor only to have junior guard Tiffany Hamilton's short shot in the lane miss its mark.

A follow shot also failed, but the ball was tipped out to Lumpkin, who immediately let fire just before the buzzer sounded.

The officials reviewed the replay monitor to confirm that Lumpkin got the shot off in time.

"It hurts," Ishee said. "We were one play short. It's a tough loss."

Southeast (13-12, 8-6) fell into sixth place in the 10-team OVC with four games remaining.

The top four finishers earn home dates for the first round of the eight-team conference tournament.

MSU (15-12, 9-6) moved into fifth place, one-half game ahead of the Redhawks, and the Eagles own a potential tie-breaker with Southeast because they swept the season series.

Southeast still has a shot to place in the top four but needs to finish strong and get some help.

The Redhawks trail fourth-place Austin Peay by one game and third-place Tennessee State by two games. Southeast lost to both squads at home and has contests remaining at each.

"It hurts us, no question about it," said Ishee regarding Southeast's chances of earning a tournament home game.

Nixon led the Redhawks offensively with 18 points. She also had seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Senior wing Sonya Daugherty scored 15 points. Senior forward Crysta Glenn had 11 points and eight rebounds.

MSU sophomore guard Chynna Bozeman stole the show.

Bozeman, who entered the day tied for sixth in the OVC in scoring at 15.7 points per game, poured in 25 points, 17 in the second half. She matched her own school record with seven 3-pointers, in 10 attempts.

Bozeman, the league leader in 3-pointers made, hit her final shot from beyond the arc with 1:28 left to put MSU on top 53-52. That set the stage for the wild finish.

"Bozeman's a great shooter," Ishee said. "Maybe one or two [of the 3-pointers] were open looks. Most of them were contested. You have to give her credit."

Southeast was not hurt badly by MSU 6-foot-3 junior center Brittany Pittman, who leads the nation with an average of almost six blocked shots per game while averaging 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds.

Pittman finished with eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks. She had 22 points, 17 boards and five blocks in MSU's earlier 74-68 win at Southeast.

Neither team led by more than four points in a first half that ended with MSU ahead 26-25.

After a back-and-forth start to the second half, the Redhawks appeared to take control with an 11-0 run that gave them a 45-36 lead with just over five minutes left. That nine-point margin represented the game's biggest advantage.

But the Eagles would not go away and eventually pulled out the victory.

"We have to put it behind us," said Ishee, whose squad suffered just its fourth loss in the past 13 games.

The Redhawks have four OVC games left beginning with their final two conference home dates, Thursday against first-place Murray State and Saturday against last-place Tennessee-Martin.

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