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Southeast women shake early foul trouble, E. Illinois
Tatiana Conceicao has been Southeast Missouri State University's dominant player this season, but she has plenty of confidence in her teammates.
So even though Conceicao played barely three minutes of the first half Tuesday after picking up two early fouls, she wasn't all that concerned.
"I knew that everybody could do the job," Conceicao said.
Conceicao's faith was rewarded, as Southeast built a six-point halftime lead with her mainly on the bench, then utilized her services in the second half to finally pull away Eastern Illinois 87-70 at the Show Me Center.
Southeast improved to 8-6 overall and 2-1 in Ohio Valley Conference play. EIU fell to 7-7 and 0-3.
Conceicao scored six quick points, then picked up her second foul just 3:25 into the contest. Coach B.J. Smith decided to keep his junior center on the sidelines for the remainder of the opening half, which ended with Southeast leading 45-39.
"We really didn't want her to get that third early foul, but if we would have been struggling we would have put her back in," Smith said. "But the way things were going, we didn't have to. Everybody else really picked up the slack, and it was good to see us play that way without Tatiana."
Especially picking up the slack in place of Conceicao was senior center Chandra Brown, who came off the bench to score eight first-half points on her way to game totals of 10 points and 12 rebounds. She added three blocks and three steals.
Brown is Southeast's leading returning scorer from last season, when she averaged 10.3 points per game. But partly because of many talented newcomers, Brown's average is just 6.6 this year, although she is Southeast's leading rebounder, ranking among the OVC's best in that category.
"Chandra did a great job after Tatiana went out," Smith said. "She can score, but she really hasn't gotten going like she can. I think she'll still be a big factor in that area, but tonight she really hit the boards and played well."
Said Brown: "I had to get some offensive rebounds, and then the points will come. But I'm not really worried about scoring."
Conceicao stayed out of foul trouble in the second half and finished with 20 points, along with eight rebounds and four steals. A first-team junior college All-American last year, Conceicao entered play averaging an OVC-best 18.1 points per game.
"I would have gone back in, but I guess coach didn't want to risk me getting my third foul," Conceicao said of the first half. "But it was a good game for us."
Junior guard Katrisha Dunn hit three of six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 13 points.
Also reaching double figures was junior forward Simone Jackson with 12 points. She leads the OVC in field-goal percentage (59.2 prior to Tuesday).
Junior point guard Tiffanne Ryan came off the bench and dished out a team-high five assists.
Playing a key first-half role was freshman guard Rachel Mueggenborg, who hit two 3-pointers and finished with six points. She had scored just eight points all season in limited minutes covering seven games.
"She's a great shooter, and she hits them in practice all the time," Smith said. "We're trying to find a spot for her, especially against teams that play a zone."
Junior guard Megan Sparks paced EIU with 20 points, but just two came in the second half. Senior center Pam O'Connor added 18 points.
Despite EIU's status as one of the weaker teams in the OVC over the past several years, Smith was concerned about the Panthers, who managed to hang tough much of the way. He came away pleased with Southeast's performance.
"Defensively, we didn't play great but part of that is they're really efficient offensively," he said. "Offensively, we probably played as well as we have all year.
"They really worried me and I feel good about the way we played."
Southeast led virtually the entire way and threatened several times to blow things open, but the home squad could not totally shake EIU until the late going.
That time finally came when, leading 71-62, Southeast scored 14 straight points -- Conceicao and Dunn each had six points -- to go ahead 85-62 with under three minutes left.
"They hung tough, like we knew they would," Brown said. "We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, but overall we played pretty decent."
Southeast allowed EIU to shoot 53.3 percent (24 of 45) but compensated by forcing 32 turnovers. Southeast shot 43.6 percent (34 of 78) and was well below its season average with only 15 turnovers.
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line, Southeast particularly bad at 11 of 26. EIU was 17 of 33.
Southeast dominated the boards with a 47-33 rebounding advantage, including 21-4 on the offensive glass.