The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team gave defending Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champion and preseason favorite Eastern Illinois a battle much of the way.
But the Panthers dominated the final 10 minutes to pull away for a 68-43 win at the Show Me Center on Saturday, sending Southeast to its fifth loss in six games.
Southeast (5-10, 1-4) remained eighth in the 10-team OVC. EIU (8-7, 4-1) is tied for first after its fourth consecutive victory against the Redhawks.
"It's very disappointing," Southeast sophomore forward Brittany Harriel said of opening a three-game homestand with a loss. "I feel like we battle at times, but we don't at others."
The Redhawks, who scored the game's first seven points but trailed most of the way, were behind just 42-37 with less than 10 minutes left.
EIU then scored 10 straight points to go ahead 52-37, and Southeast couldn't recover. The Panthers ended the contest on a 26-6 run.
"We obviously got off to a good start. We made a couple of shots early," Southeast coach John Ishee said. "Then we got down. When we get down, we don't respond to adversity very well.
"We just have to find a way to have more pride in our teamwork and execution."
Harriel was Southeast's only consistent offensive threat. She scored 15 points along with team highs of nine rebounds and three blocks.
Harriel hit 5 of 11 field-goal attempts, but the rest of the Redhawks combined to shoot 9 of 35. Southeast finished at 30.4 percent.
"I thought Brittany had a very good game offensively and defensively," Ishee said.
Sophomore guard/forward Katie Norman added 10 points and three steals for Southeast.
Sophomore forward Mariah King paced EIU with 17 points.
Sophomore point guard Ta'Kenya Nixon, the reigning OVC freshman of the year, had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds along with six assists.
Offensive deficiencies continued to plague the Redhawks, who entered play last in the OVC and among the lowest-scoring teams nationally with an average of 50.6 points per game.
"You're not going to win many games scoring 43 points," Ishee said.
Ishee also pointed to EIU's 39-28 rebounding advantage as a key. And 22 turnovers didn't help matters.
"I thought we defended well," Ishee said after the Panthers shot 38.9 percent. "But you're not going to beat the defending champion when you get outrebounded by 11."
Southeast jumped ahead 7-0 as EIU went scoreless for more than four minutes at the outset.
Then it was the Redhawks' turn for an offensive drought. They went scoreless for more than eight minutes.
EIU put up 18 straight points, forcing Southeast to play from behind the rest of the way.
"We were a completely different team when we were up 7-0 and when we got down," Harriel said.
Southeast trailed 27-19 at halftime, then fell behind 37-25 early in the final period before making a serious push.
Seven consecutive points, capped by Harriel's layup with a little more than 12 minutes left, cut the deficit to 38-35.
The Redhawks had a chance to pull within a point but missed a layup.
EIU answered with 10 straight points to effectively put the victory on ice.
"We play well in spurts," Ishee said. "We couldn't get over the hump."
EIU coach Brady Sallee liked the way the Panthers grinded out the win.
"It was about as methodical as it gets," Sallee said. "I felt if we kept rebounding and defending, we'd be OK."
Southeast continues its homestand Thursday against Morehead State.