Southeast Missouri State University's women have perhaps been known more for their high-octane offense than anything else under third-year coach B.J. Smith.
But Smith wants his team to also concentrate on defense, and he emphasized that in recent practices.
Smith's focus on defense paid off Thursday afternoon in the form of a 61-44 victory over Chicago State in front of about 250 fans at the Show Me Center.
Southeast, which broke a four-game losing streak and improved to 5-5, allowed a season-low point total while limiting the Cougars (5-6) to 33.3 percent shooting.
"We've really focused on defense since we got back from Christmas," Smith said. "We've struggled to control the basketball defensively, but we did a good job today. I thought we looked a lot better."
That Southeast's improved defense came somewhat at the expense of its offense didn't seem to bother Smith. Southeast, among the national leaders in scoring at 75.8 points per game, had its second-lowest output of the year and shot just 36.4 percent.
"We struggled some on offense, but that's usually a little bit rough when you come back from Christmas," Smith said.
Tatiana Conceicao, Southeast's junior center who averages 19 points per game, had 13 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
"We needed that one so much," Conceicao said.
Senior guard Brandi Russia was Southeast's only other double-figure scorer with 10 points. Russia also had six rebounds and five assists.
Junior forward Simone Jackson continued her recent strong play with nine points, all coming in the second half. She also had six rebounds.
Jackson, another of Southeast's junior college transfers, started slow this season but has picked up steam. She entered the contest shooting a sizzling 65.3 percent.
"She keeps getting better," Smith said.
Said Jackson: "It was a matter of adjusting to coach B.J.'s style of play and also to playing Division I basketball."
Junior guard Katrisha Dunn, yet another juco transfer, hit three of four 3-pointers and scored nine points.
Senior forward Chandra Brown, Southeast's leading rebounder at more than seven per game, added eight points and five rebounds.
Chandra Timberlake paced Chicago State with 13 points. Renada Blackburn added 11.
Southeast started slowly with just four points in the first seven-plus minutes of play. But Chicago State, which held early leads of 4-0 and 7-4, also found the offensive going tough.
Junior guard Tiffanne Ryan's 3-pointer with 8:39 remaining in the first half put Southeast ahead for good at 14-11.
Dunn's 3-pointer with three minutes left before halftime capped a 13-1 run and put Southeast on top 24-12. It was 26-18 at halftime.
Jackson scored four quick points to start the second half, as Southeast moved ahead 30-18.
After the Cougars pulled to within 36-29, a 10-0 Southeast run opened up a 46-29 advantage and the rout was on. Southeast's biggest lead was 19 points.
"We had a slow start, probably because we had some days off," said Conceicao, noting that Southeast had not played a game in more than a week and had also taken some practice time off over Christmas.
Both teams were sloppy with the ball, Southeast committing 27 turnovers and the Cougars having 28 turnovers.
Still, Smith said, "It was good to get a win after losing four in a row."
Southeast has another home game today, facing Division II Oakland City (Ind.) at 6 p.m. The Mighty Oaks are 3-4.