Southeast completes perfect homestand

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Southeast Missouri State University coach B.J. Smith need not have worried -- his team was plenty focused enough to dispose of an underdog opponent and complete a perfect homestand.

After crushing the squads picked for first through third in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll during their previous three games, the Redhawks pounded Samford 85-49 Saturday night at the Show Me Center.

The Redhawks (13-6, 7-1) remained in a first-place OVC tie as they went 4-0 on the homestand and pushed their winning streak to six in a row.

"This game really worried me," said Smith, whose team has won nine of its last 10. "We had some little things we didn't execute early, but about six minutes in, we got control of the game.

"I'm real happy we were able to close out the homestand this way."

Samford (10-9, 3-5) hung tough for a while, as the Bulldogs held a few early leads and were tied with Southeast 10-10 after about four minutes.

But the Redhawks held Samford to only 10 points the rest of the period as they built a 40-20 halftime lead. Southeast's biggest second-half advantage was 39 points.

"Coach was worried about this game, but it's nice to win again," said junior center Tatiana Conceicao, the OVC's leading scorer who put in 16 points Saturday.

Junior forward Natalie Purcell hit six of nine 3-pointers and led the Redhawks with 18 points off the bench.

Purcell, a starter early in the season, had been struggling with her shooting in recent weeks, but she made three of six 3-pointers against Jacksonville State on Thursday and followed up Saturday by hitting six of her first seven 3-point attempts.

"It felt good," said Purcell, whose scoring outburst was her second-highest of the season. "I've been shooting a lot more outside of practice, on my own. It helps when you're in a slump."

Said Smith: "Natalie is a better player than what people have seen. With junior college kids, you never know how quick they'll adjust. I think she'll really be a good player for us in February."

Junior forward Simone Jackson scored 12 points while leading Southeast in rebounds with seven and assists with six.

Senior guard Brandi Russia added 10 points, four assists and three steals. She continued her recent hot long-range shooting by making both of her 3-point attempts. In OVC games, Russia is hitting 50 percent from behind the arc (17 of 34).

Senior forward Chandra Brown contributed eight points and two blocked shots, junior point guard Wanika Owsley had five assists, and junior guard Katrisha Dunn recorded four steals.

"We're getting good play from a lot of players," Smith said.

The Redhawks forced 28 more turnovers Saturday, putting the total at 115 during the homestand. Samford shot just 36.6 percent (15 of 41) and became Southeast's fourth straight opponent to score fewer than 53 points.

Southeast shot 59.3 percent (32 of 54) and made 10 of 18 3-pointers.

"I thought our shot selection was really good," Smith said.

The Redhawks play their next three games on the road, beginning Thursday at Tennessee-Martin.

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