Freshmen spark Southeast in tuneup for conference play

Sunday, January 2, 2005

The Southeast Missouri State University women struggled at the beginning of both halves Friday night.

But the rest of the game with Oakland City University went pretty much as expected, with Southeast rolling to a 74-49 New Year's Eve victory in front of about 150 fans at the Show Me Center.

Southeast, which on Thursday snapped a four-game losing streak by beating visiting Chicago State, improved to 6-5 heading into the start of Ohio Valley Conference play.

OCU, a Division II team from Oakland City, Ind., fell to 3-5.

"We feel good about winning two in a row, but it's a new season now," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "From this point on, everybody is 0-0."

While Southeast was not overly impressive Friday, Smith was most pleased by the way several of his freshmen performed.

In fact, with Southeast floundering early in the game -- the Mighty Oaks led 6-4 after more than five minutes of play --Smith removed three starters and replaced them with freshmen Leanne Evans, Julie Sweetin and Rachel Mueggenborg.

That trio seemed to spark Southeast, which promptly went on an 18-0 run to take control of a contest that never got close again. Evans, a 6-foot-2 center, and Sweetin, a 5-10 forward who has started two games this year, both scored five points during the spurt.

"Those three came off the bench and gave us a lift," Smith said.

Evans, who had been averaging just 6.1 minutes of playing time per game, reached season highs in points (seven) and rebounds (seven).

Southeast's five freshmen combined for 22 points. In addition to Sweetin's five points, forward Liz Sharpe-Taylor had four points, as she reached the scoring column for the first time this season. Mueggenborg and Aisha Moreno, both guards, added three points apiece.

"I was really pleased with our freshmen," Smith said. "They need more minutes and that was one of our goals tonight."

Junior center Tatiana Conceicao, Southeast's leading scorer at nearly 19 points per game, had a game-high 13 points despite playing just 17 minutes. She hit six of eight shots from the field and also had four steals.

Junior guard Wanika Owsley hit two of three 3-pointers and added 10 points.

Katrisha Dunn, another junior guard, scored nine points as she made three of seven 3-pointers. Senior forward Chandra Brown had eight points, hitting three of four shots, and junior forward Natalie Purcell pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.

Southeast led 39-19 at halftime and, despite scoring just two points in the first 5:40 of the second half, opened a 27-point advantage late in the contest.

Southeast held its second straight opponent to fewer than 50 points and also forced more than 20 turnovers for the second consecutive game, as OCU finished with 24. Katie Miller paced the Mighty Oaks with 10 points.

Southeast now will turn its attention to OVC play, which begins with two tough road games, at defending champion Austin Peay on Thursday and preseason favorite Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

"We've got our work cut out for us in those first two," Smith said.

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