For the first time in seven years, the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball season ended before the Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinals.
Tennessee State beat Southeast 77-66 on Tuesday night in Nashville, Tenn., for the Redhawks' first opening-round OVC tournament loss since the 2001-02 campaign.
The Redhawks had made six consecutive appearances in the tournament semifinals, including two championships. Southeast won first-round games at home during each of those years.
Southeast last failed to reach the semifinals during the 2001-02 season, which was also the last time the Redhawks began the tournament on the road.
Third-seeded TSU (18-12) advanced to Friday's semifinals in Nashville by beating Southeast for the third time this season.
The sixth-seeded Redhawks (15-15) ended the year with three straight losses.
Southeast played Tuesday's contest without coach John Ishee, who remains hospitalized in St. Louis following a Sunday morning automobile accident. Ishee was moved out of the ICU on Monday.
Assistant coach Chris Harris directed the Redhawks in Ishee's absence. Harris said he was proud of Southeast's effort if not the result.
"I said yesterday I had no doubt in my mind they would come out and play their hearts out with what all was at stake," Harris said. "They did that. They played extremely hard."
Less than a week ago, TSU routed Southeast 70-54 in Nashville as the Tigers led wire to wire.
Tuesday's rematch was much more competitive, with nine ties and no double-figure advantage until TSU pulled away in the final minute.
TSU led by eight points early and Southeast grabbed a five-point advantage before the Tigers entered halftime ahead 39-36.
The Tigers went up 46-38 early in the final period only to see Southeast pull into a 55-55 tie with just under eight minutes left. But the Redhawks never could regain the lead.
TSU broke the deadlock on a basket with 7:30 remaining. Southeast was still within two points with about four minutes left, but the Tigers used a 6-0 run to take control for good.
"Tennessee State made a couple of more plays at the end than we did. That was the difference in the game," Harris said. "But as far as the effort, it was great.
"I told them afterward that on the scoreboard we lost, but we didn't really lose. With the effort and how hard they competed ... I couldn't be more proud of their effort."
Senior guard Tarina Nixon led Southeast with 14 points, although she spent the final few minutes on the bench after suffering an apparent knee injury.
"I don't really know what happened with Tarina," Harris said. "We'll get it checked out when we get back to Cape."
Senior forward Rachel Blunt had 12 points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Bianca Beck tied her career high with 11 points.
Senior wing Sonya Daugherty scored all nine of her points in the first half.
TSU, hosting an OVC tournament game for the first time, was paced by senior forward Tiffany Jackson with 17 points. Sophomore forward Jasmine Smith added 16 points.