Southeast to host first-place Racers

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team had no answer for Murray State's big three the last time the squads met.

Southeast will need to find a way to at least slow down that trio in tonight's 7 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center.

On Jan. 24 in Murray, Ky., senior stars Ashley Hayes, Amber Guffey and Paige Guffey combined for all but six of the Racers' points in their 80-65 win.

MSU pulled away from a 60-60 tie with a 20-5 run over the final 6 minutes, 13 seconds.

"I thought we played pretty well for the most part," Southeast coach John Ishee said.

Just not as well as Hayes and the Guffey twins.

Hayes, a 5-foot-10 wing, poured in 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting despite playing just eight first-half minutes after she picked up two fouls. The reigning Ohio Valley Conference player of the year scored 21 second-half points.

The Guffeys, 5-8 guards, both scored 22 points, with Paige hitting 6 of 9 3-pointers, including several from at least 25 feet away.

Torching teams is the norm rather than the exception for Hayes and the Guffeys as they have propelled the Racers to the top of the OVC standings.

Hayes (23.8 points per game), Amber (20.3) and Paige (14.4) rank first, second and ninth in conference scoring. Hayes is fifth nationally, while Amber is 15th.

Hayes is also the OVC's No. 3 rebounder (9.2) while ranking second in field-goal shooting (50.7 percent) and third in 3-point shooting (40.3 percent).

Hayes is averaging a double-double of 26.9 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 54.4 percent from the field in league play as she is a virtual lock to earn her second straight OVC player of the year award.

Hayes has scored at least 30 points in her last five games -- starting with the Southeast contest -- including a school-record 46 that is the second-highest total in the nation this season. She is averaging 35.8 points in her last four outings.

"She's having as good a season as anyone in America," Ishee said. "She's the best player in the conference, no question."

Paige is the OVC's No. 2 3-point shooter at 41.1 percent, including 46.8 percent, in league games to lead the way.

Then there is free-throw shooting. The Racers lead the nation at 83.2 percent, with Paige first in the OVC at 88.7, followed by Amber (87.6) and Hayes (87.2). All three rank among the top 20 nationally.

It's no wonder the defending OVC tournament champion Racers (17-6, 12-1) are the OVC's highest-scoring team, averaging 78 points per game to rank eighth in the nation. They have posted a school-record 11 straight wins.

"They've got just a really, really good team. They've proved that over 13 [conference] games," Ishee said. "They will be everything we want and more, but it's always fun to compete against the current best team in the league."

Defending OVC regular-season champion Southeast (13-12, 8-6) stands sixth in the 10-team league with four games remaining.

The top four finishers earn home dates for the first round of the eight-team OVC tournament. The Redhawks still have a shot to place in the top four, but need to finish strong and get some help.

Noteworthy

* Tonight's game is part of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone. Fans are encouraged to wear pink as part of an initiative by the WBCA to help raise breast cancer awareness.

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