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Southeast women overtake TSU 67-59
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Southeast Missouri State women apparently had good reason to be wary of a vastly improved Tennessee State team.
The upstart Tigers put up a battle Thursday night, but visiting Southeast was able to squeeze out a 67-59 Ohio Valley Conference victory.
Southeast, which trailed by four points with about 7 minutes remaining, improved to 9-6 overall and 3-1 in OVC play.
TSU, which last week broke a 22-game OVC losing streak, fell to 4-10 overall and 1-2 in the league.
"They're a lot better than they've been, and they play hard. I didn't expect it to be easy," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "But this is a big win for us. A lot of times if you win a conference championship, games you win like this make all the difference."
Senior guard Brandi Russia, who hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game -- a 3-pointer immediately after TSU had gone ahead 55-51 with barely seven minutes left -- paced Southeast with 17 points. She made four of five 3-point attempts.
"We thought it would be a tough game, being on the road again," said Russia, noting that Southeast has played three of its first four OVC games away from home. "It's just nice to win."
Said junior point guard Wanika Owsley, who had eight points and four assists: "I expected something tough. It was a struggle, but it's a 'W.'"
Junior center Tatiana Conceicao scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Junior forward Simone Jackson added nine points and eight rebounds.
Southeast led by 14 points midway through the first half, as it looked like the visitors might coast to victory.
But TSU hung tough. The Tigers pulled to within 38-34 by halftime, then continued to surge and grabbed a 55-51 lead on a Leslie Dean 3-pointer with 7:10 remaining.
Russia came right back with her 3-pointer seven seconds later.
"That was a really big shot," Smith said.
After Southeast pulled into a 55-55 tie, TSU went ahead 57-55 on LaToya Clay's two free throws with 5:46 to play.
But Southeast then tightened its defense and held TSU scoreless for more than 5 minutes to take control.
Jackson's fast-break layup with 4:26 left put Southeast up for good at 58-57. Jackson scored on another fast-break layup less than a minute later for a 60-57 lead.
Southeast later closed out the victory by making seven of eight free throws in the final 1:34, including five of six by Owsley.
"I have to hit the free throws because I can't make anything else," said a laughing Owsley, who made just one of six field-goal attempts.
Said Smith of Owsley's recent play: "She does not get nearly enough credit. She does so many things for us, and I thought she did a great job late in the game."
Added Smith, whose squad plays its next four OVC games at home: "I thought in the last five minutes we did a really good job of keeping our composure. It's a big win. And now it's great to be going home for four straight."