Southeast women suffer from home-court woes in basketball home opener

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Southeast Missouri State's Shelah Fields goes up for a shot against Northern Iowa's K.K. Armstrong during the first half Wednesday at the Show Me Center. (Kristin Eberts)

The good news for the Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team is that it played its best game of the young season.

The bad news for the Redhawks is that they were facing a powerhouse squad from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Southeast hung tough Wednesday night but really never threatened Northern Iowa as the Panthers spoiled the Redhawks' home opener with a 70-57 victory.

"We kept fighting the whole time," junior point guard Bianca Beck said. "They were a real good team."

UNI, an NCAA tournament qualifier last year that is picked to finish second in the MVC, improved to 2-0.

Southeast Missouri State's Brittany Harriel attempts to drive around Northern Iowa's Erin Brocka during the first half Wednesday at the Show Me Center. (Kristin Eberts)

Southeast fell to 1-2, but coach John Ishee had few complaints.

"They're a very good team, a big, physical, smart team," Ishee said. "I was extremely proud of our effort. I thought we played really hard.

"We played with a lot of pride and it was our best game of the year as far as executing offensively."

The Redhawks, who never led, were tied just once at 2-2. The Panthers scored the next eight points to go up 10-2, and Southeast fought an uphill battle the rest of the way.

"We spotted them a bunch in the beginning," sophomore forward Brittany Harriel said. "Overall I think we competed. We didn't give up."

Southeast Missouri State's Karley Evans defends Northern Iowa's Jacqui Kalin during Wednesday's game.

Said Ishee: "The first few minutes were really the difference. When you're swimming upstream against a team like that, it's tough."

UNI, which opened several 13-point leads in the first half, carried a 37-27 advantage into the break.

The Panthers scored the first seven points of the second half to go ahead 44-27 but Southeast pulled within 10 points twice.

"We couldn't come up with the big stops we needed to cut the lead under 10," Beck said.

UNI finally began to put away the Redhawks for good midway through the second half. An 8-0 run that featured a Southeast scoreless drought of more than five minutes led to a 64-43 deficit, the biggest of the night.

The closest Southeast got after that was the final 13-point margin.

Harriel led Southeast with a career-high 17 points. She was perfect offensively during a 10-point first half, hitting all four of her field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers.

"Brittany was a warrior tonight," Ishee said. "She's going to be a really good player."

Harriel said she was more aggressive than usual.

"My coaches have talked to me about that," she said.

Beck scored 12 points while junior college transfer guard Karley Evans had 11 points in the best performance of her young Southeast career.

"Bianca played well, and I thought Karley was a spark off the bench," Ishee said.

The Redhawks shot a solid 44.7 percent from the field and made 6 of 11 from 3-point range for 54.5 percent. They hit 33.9 percent overall and 22 percent on 3-pointers in the first two games.

But UNI was tough to slow down, especially its talented inside-outside tandem of junior center Lizzie Boeck and junior point guard Jacqui Kalin, both all-MVC performers.

Boeck had 17 points and eight rebounds, while Kalin added 18 points and six assists.

The Panthers shot 44.4 percent and made 10 of 27 3-pointers (37 percent), including 7 of 15 in the first half (46.7 percent).

UNI also held a 34-25 rebounding advantage and had only 12 turnovers compared to 17 for the Redhawks.

Southeast was short-handed as two of its top players, sophomore forward Patricia Mack and sophomore guard Jasmine Davis, dressed but never got in the game.

Mack injured a knee during Saturday's win over Jackson State. Southeast is awaiting results of an MRI.

Davis, Southeast's leading scorer before suffering a season-ending knee injury last year, had her minutes limited in the first two games. She was expected to play Wednesday but the knee was bothering her.

And Brooke Taylor, a freshman forward from Bismarck, Mo., who was Southeast's top recruit, has not played yet due to an iron deficiency problem. Ishee said he doesn't know when Taylor will be ready for game action.

"You wish you had them. It is a little frustrating," Beck said. "But we just have to work with what we've got. In the long run, it's going to make us better."

Southeast has lost nine straight home games, its longest home losing streak since the 1976-77 season, but Ishee saw enough positives to be optimistic.

"If we can get healthy, we can win some games," he said.

Things don't get any easier for the Redhawks on Friday when they visit Big East Conference member Louisville, the 2009 NCAA runner-up.

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