Redhawks try to clear road hurdles

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Southeast Missouri State University's women simply destroyed the opposition during their recently completed four-game homestand, winning all four contests by an average of 32 points.

"It was a good homestand," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said in something of an understatement.

But now the Redhawks (13-6, 7-1 Ohio Valley Conference) face a different challenge, as their next three games will be away from the Show Me Center, beginning with today's 5:30 p.m. tipoff at Tennessee-Martin (6-13, 5-3).

Southeast, which will move back into a first-place OVC tie by winning today, visits Murray State on Saturday and Eastern Illinois on Tuesday.

"We did what we needed to do at home," Smith said. "But now we have to be solid on the road."

The Redhawks realize life on the road won't be nearly as easy as the cozy confines of home, but they believe they'll be up to the challenge.

"It will be different, but I think we'll be ready," said junior center Tatiana Conceicao, the OVC's leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, which also puts her 36th nationally.

Added junior forward Natalie Purcell: "It's definitely not the same as playing at home, but we just have to be focused. I think we will be."

Southeast, which has won six straight games and nine of its last 10, forced 115 turnovers during its just-completed homestand while limiting all four opponents to worse than 37 percent shooting and fewer than 53 points.

"Defense has been the key for us," Conceicao said.

Partly because their defense helps generate offense, the Redhawks have moved up to ninth nationally in scoring with an average of 75.4 points per game, which leads the OVC.

Southeast is also seventh nationally in 3-pointers made per game (7.6), 11th in steals per game (12.6) and 23rd in scoring margin (13.6). All those figures top the conference as well.

Smith said a big key to the Redhawks' success so far -- and what has them on course to be the most successful team during his three seasons at Southeast -- is their chemistry and unselfishness.

"Last year, we had really good talent but we just never clicked," Smith said of the 2003-04 squad that went 16-13 and finished fourth in the OVC. "But this team is a lot more worried about winning than anything else, no matter who does the scoring or who gets the credit."

This week's road trips, although not long in distance -- both Martin, Tenn., and Murray, Ky., are within two hours driving time from Cape Girardeau -- have Smith worried because Southeast lost at both places last season.

"These two will be huge," he said. "Last year we were sitting in second place and lost both games, and that really hurt us. Hopefully we'll be able to handle it better this year."

UTM's top player is powerful 5-foot-8 sophomore forward Andreika Jackson, who averages 13.7 points per game. The Skyhawks, in fourth place in the OVC, have been a surprise so far.

"They've played well, and it won't be easy beating them there," Smith said.

Noteworthy

* Senior forward Chandra Brown continues to make her mark on the school record book in blocked shots. Her 31 blocks this year are eighth on the single-season list and her 57th career blocks are seventh all-time, despite the fact the junior college transfer has played just two seasons at Southeast.

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