Southeast women ambush Southern Mississippi

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 ~ Updated 12:11 AM
Southeast Missouri State's Bianca Beck, left, and Brittany Harriel battle for a rebound with Southern Mississippi's Candace Rucker during Monday's game at the Show Me Center. (LAURA SIMON)

John Ishee's young, inexperienced Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team is growing up right before his eyes.

And quickly.

The Redhawks passed their first major test of the season with flying colors Monday night, upsetting visiting Southern Mississippi 73-63.

"It's kind of proving our point, that we're not such babies as everybody says," freshman guard Jasmine Davis said with a laugh.

Southeast, with nine freshmen and just one senior on its 13-player roster, knocked off a Conference USA squad that won 20 games last year and features an All-American candidate in senior forward Pauline Love.

Southern Miss forward Pauline Love, center, blocks Southeast Missouri State's Jasmine Davis as she goes to the hoop. (LAURA SIMON)

"It's very exciting," said junior wing Lauren Sharpe, Southeast's top returning scorer with an eight-point average. "It's great to see our young players play like this."

Exactly one week earlier, Southeast lost its lone exhibition game by 16 points to Division II Christian Brothers, which had a losing record last year.

The Redhawks won Friday's season opener, 66-53 over Missouri-St. Louis -- a Division II team coming off a 7-21 campaign -- despite having 29 turnovers.

Monday night the Redhawks looked nothing like the squad from those two previous outings as they improved to 2-0.

"Our first [exhibition] game, a lot of people didn't know what to expect," said Sharpe, who celebrated her 21st birthday Monday. "We've been improving ever since."

Ishee, Southeast's fourth-year coach, knows there will be plenty of bumps in the road. He was still very excited by what he saw Monday.

"Every win we get is big, but this is a really big win," Ishee said. "We knocked down shots, we handled pressure for the most part, we accepted roles and we played to our strengths.

"Everybody who played, played well."

Southeast scored the first seven points and Southern Miss (1-1) never caught up. Ishee said the fast start was vital.

"If we don't get off to that good start, who knows what happens," said Ishee, a Southern Miss graduate who was an assistant with the Eagles from 1991 through 1994.

While two freshmen started and three others saw significant action, Lesley Adams -- Southeast's only senior -- was named player of the game.

Adams scored 13 points, the most since she came to Southeast last year out of junior college. Nine of the points were in the second half.

Adams, a 6-foot-2 center, also grabbed six rebounds and made the 6-foot Love work hard for her 24 points and 10 rebounds. Love hit 10 of 25 shots.

"Lesley defended, she rebounded, she made open shots," Ishee said. "That's her best game since she's been here, no question."

While Adams was strong offensively, making 5 of 7 shots, she said her main focus was on the defensive end.

"I'm a defensive player. I pride myself on defense," Adams said. "Defense can always be there. Offense will come and go."

Adams said she simply wanted to make Love, who averaged a double-double last year, work as hard as possible for anything she got.

"My mindset was just to guard her, make it tough on her," Adams said. "I knew she'd get some because she's a good offensive player."

Davis led Southeast in scoring for the second straight game as she had 17 points, 11 in the second half. Much of her damage came from the line as she made 9 of 13 free throws, but she also hit 2 of 5 from 3-point range.

"Coach told us we just have to come out and compete. The whole team did a good job," said Davis, who had 13 points in the season opener against Missouri-St. Louis.

Sharpe was also in double figures with 11 points, eight in the second half.

Freshman forward Bailie Roberts scored nine points, seven in the first half.

Freshman forward Brittany Harriel had eight points and a team-high nine rebounds, while freshman wing Katie Norman scored all seven of her points in the second half to go along with three assists.

"Our freshmen played really well," Sharpe said.

So did sophomore point guard Bianca Beck, who had eight points and four assists against just two turnovers while playing a team-high 38 minutes. Sharpe was next with 36 minutes.

"Bianca ran the team great," Ishee said. "She played as smart a game as since she's been here."

After jumping out to the quick 7-0 lead, Southeast expanded the advantage to 12 points twice in the first half before the Eagles closed to within 31-26 at the intermission.

The Eagles scored the first basket of the second half to make it 31-28, but the Redhawks refused to blink as they answered with a 7-0 run to go up 38-28.

A tough scoop layup in traffic by Davis with just over 12 minutes left put Southeast ahead 48-32 for its biggest advantage.

Southern Miss made several strong runs, closing to 68-63 late, but Southeast hit five of six free throws in the final 22 seconds -- Davis was 3 of 4 and Sharpe 2 of 2 -- to close out the game.

"I thought we showed a lot of composure," Ishee said.

Southeast had 16 turnovers, a low total considering that Southern Miss pressed much of the night.

The Redhawks shot 52.2 percent in the second half to finish at 46.9 percent for the game. Southern Miss shot just 37.9 percent.

"It was a big-time win," Davis said.

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