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Southeast hopes to build on strong road trip
After nearly sweeping its league-opening road trip against two premier teams, Southeast Missouri State University coach B.J. Smith knows the natural inclination is to expect an easier time today.
So Smith hopes to do everything in his power to guard against a letdown as Southeast plays its first Ohio Valley Conference home game, against Eastern Illinois in a 5 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center.
"We're going to work hard to make sure that doesn't happen," Smith said.
Southeast, 7-6 overall, is 1-1 in league play after winning at two-time defending OVC regular-season champion Austin Peay and suffering a two-point loss at preseason favorite Tennessee Tech.
EIU, 7-6 overall, is 0-2 in the conference after losing by 32 points at Tennessee Tech and by 12 points at Austin Peay. The Panthers have not finished higher than seventh in the OVC for the past six years.
"I think everybody expected Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay to be really good, and Eastern Illinois hasn't been very good," Smith said. "But we have to be really careful, especially with this team, because we're not very consistent and we have a tendency to be up and down.
"In this league, anybody can get you. And every game is so important, especially home games. To have a chance to win the league, you have to hold serve at home, so this is a big game for us."
And, Smith pointed out, the Panthers have played Southeast tough the past few years.
"We've had trouble with them in the past, especially at home," he said. "They worry me because they're better than they have been in the past."
Pam O'Connor, a senior who has been one of the league's top inside players the past few seasons, is EIU's only double-figure scorer at 12 points per game.
But junior center Janelle Cazy exploded for 35 points against Austin Peay, while sophomore guards Megan Casad and Melanie Ploger both are shooting better than 45 percent from 3-point range.
"Their guards are a lot better than they have been, and they still have O'Connor, who has been a very good player," Smith said.
Southeast continues to be led by junior center Tatiana Conceicao, the OVC's leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. She has scored in double figures in 12 of 13 games.
On Monday, Conceicao was named the OVC's newcomer of the week for the fifth time in seven weeks.
Southeast's strong junior college recruiting class is also responsible for nabbing the newcomer award the other two weeks as forwards Natalie Purcell and Simone Jackson were honored. Jackson leads the OVC in field-goal shooting at 59.2 percent