Southeast women need offensive weapons to emerge

Thursday, January 21, 2010
Southeast Missouri State's Katie Norman maneuvers past Tennessee Tech defender Rachel Glidden during their game earlier this season at the Show Me Center. (LAURA SIMON)

The Redhawks will be without their top three scorers tonight

The injury-riddled Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team has a chance to even its Ohio Valley Conference record today.

If that happens, given the circumstances, coach John Ishee would jump for joy.

"If we could get to 4-4 in the conference, after all our injuries, I'd be so happy, I don't know what I'd do," Ishee said.

When Southeast (6-10, 3-4 OVC) hosts Tennessee-Martin (3-13, 1-6) in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center, the Redhawks will be without their top three scorers.

Southeast's Brittany Harriel battles Tennessee Tech's Kellie Cook, right, for control of the ball during their game earlier this month at the Show Me Center. (LAURA SIMON)

That also could be the case Saturday when Southeast closes out its two-game homestand against Murray State (8-10, 3-4).

The Redhawks are tied for fifth in the 10-team OVC, along with Murray State. UTM is in last place.

"We are really looking forward to playing at the Show Me Center," said Ishee, whose squad has had five of its first seven OVC games on the road. "This is a huge week for us. You have to hold serve at home."

Holding serve at home would have been more manageable for the Redhawks if they were anything close to healthy. But that's not the case.

Leading scorer Jasmine Davis and third-leading scorer Lauren Sharpe have missed the past three games with injuries and Southeast probably won't have them for the remainder of the season.

Davis, a freshman guard, definitely is out for the season with a knee injury. Sharpe, a junior wing, also likely is out for the rest of the campaign with back problems that will require surgery.

As if that weren't bad enough, freshman forward Bailie Roberts -- Southeast's No. 2 scorer and top 3-point shooter -- suffered a foot injury Saturday at Eastern Kentucky although she continued to play.

Ishee said Roberts won't play today and she also could miss Saturday's contest, if not more games.

"We're so banged up now, it's unbelievable," Ishee said. "But nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We still have to play."

Saturday's 43-41 win at Eastern Kentucky, which snapped an 11-game road losing streak, marked Southeast's lowest point total in a victory since the 1976-77 season.

The Redhawks were struggling offensively even before losing Davis and Sharpe. Now points could be even tougher to come by without Roberts.

"When you lose two key components like we have, it changes the complexion of your team," Ishee said. "Not only do you lose the point production, but they make their teammates better.

"We're averaging 39.6 points per game since Jasmine and Lauren went out. It might not be the prettiest basketball, but the main thing is to give your team the best chance to win."

Southeast averages just 53.6 points per game, ninth in the OVC, and the Redhawks are last in field-goal percentage at 34.3.

But today the Redhawks will face an even more offensively challenged squad. UTM averages a league-low 49.7 points per game. The Skyhawks are eighth in field-goal percentage (35.8), although they do rank third in 3-point percentage (31.5). Southeast is ninth in that department (25.4).

"I expect a grind-it-out basketball game," Ishee said. "I don't expect either team to score in the 70s or 80s."

Ishee also expects to face a UTM squad that is much more dangerous than its record suggests. The Skyhawks broke a 29-game OVC losing streak last week by beating Tennessee Tech 56-52. The Skyhawks have since lost to Jacksonville State.

"They've only won one conference game, but they've been close in a lot of their road games," Ishee said. "They'll be everything we can handle."

The Skyhawks' offense has picked up recently, thanks to the play of 5-foot-11 junior forward Alecia Weatherly.

Weatherly scored 30 points in two games last week, including a career-high 21 during the win that snapped UTM's long conference losing streak.

Weatherly leads the Skyhawks with a 12-point scoring average and is third in the league in 3-point shooting at 41.2 percent. She has been the OVC newcomer of the week five times.

Another weapon for the Skyhawks is 5-6 freshman guard Cali Cupples, who is third in the conference in 3-pointers made with 40.

"They'll be plenty tough for us, especially with our situation right now," Ishee said.

Ishee said the Redhawks came up with numerous key hustle plays during Saturday's win at Eastern Kentucky and they must continue that.

"If you don't have a lot of firepower, every play matters," Ishee said. "We'll have to play with that sense of urgency against Tennessee-Martin and the rest of the season."

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