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Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team defeats Murray State 70-58
The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team hasn't had much to smile about in recent years.
This season is taking on a different vibe, a trend that continued Monday night.
A 70-58 home rout of Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State allowed the Redhawks to reach several notable milestones.
Southeast, by improving to 7-8 overall, already has matched its win total from coach Ty Margenthaler's first season last year, when the Redhawks went 7-22.
The Redhawks are 2-1 in OVC play for the first time since the 2007-08 season -- which marked Southeast's last conference title.
Southeast has a two-game winning streak for the first time since December of the 2010-11 campaign. And the Redhawks, although it's early, are tied for first place in the OVC West Division after being picked to finish last.
"Another great victory for this basketball team," said Margenthaler, who took over a floundering program that posted just eight wins each of the two seasons before he arrived. "It feels good. I'm really happy for the team, especially that senior class. They've been through a lot."
Senior guard Bailie Roberts and fourth-year junior forward Patricia Mack are among several Southeast players who have endured the past three years.
"It's an awesome feeling. It's just really exciting," Roberts said. "It's a good payoff. We've gone through a lot as a team."
Said a grinning Mack: "It was times we were like, 'Man, we don't want to be here.' Now we're here. We're making a statement. We're having more fun, we're smiling. ... You never used to see that in the past."
The Redhawks, for the second straight game, had plenty to smile about as they led MSU (8-6, 1-2) virtually wire to wire. That was also the case during Saturday's 71-57 OVC home win over Austin Peay.
"We stayed up. It's something we've been working on," Mack said.
Roberts poured in a career-high 22 points, 15 in a second half that saw Southeast outscore the Racers 42-34. She has scored double figures in four consecutive games.
"Back-to-back conference games she's shooting it well, rebounding," Margenthaler said.
Roberts hit 8 of 13 field-goal attempts, including 2 of 3 3-pointers. She added four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"We moved the ball really well. I can only thank my teammates. They're the ones that get me open," said Roberts, whose previous career high was 19 points last year at Tennessee-Martin.
Junior-college transfer guard Jordan Hunter continued her recent strong play with 19 points -- 12 in the second half.
"I thought she played a really good second half," Margenthaler said.
Hunter, who has had three consecutive double-figure scoring performances, made 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. She added a career-high eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.
"We're really team oriented," said Hunter in helping explain Southeast's resurgence this year. "We look to each other, to feed off each other with energy."
Mack, Southeast's top rebounder, bounced back with 12 rebounds after being limited to a season-low four Saturday due to foul trouble.
Mack, who added four points, three assists and two steals, has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in eight of the last nine games.
Freshman guard Kara Wright continued her solid play after moving into the starting lineup five games ago. She scored nine points and dished out a career-high five assists while grabbing four rebounds.
"We're playing really well together," Roberts said.
MSU, which was playing without two suspended starters, scored the game's first basket, a 3-pointer.
Southeast broke a 6-6 tie by scoring six straight points, and the Redhawks never relinquished the advantage.
The Redhawks saw MSU cut a 28-15 deficit to 28-24 at halftime. The Racers ended the period on a 9-0 run.
But Southeast asserted itself again at the start of the second half, scoring eight of the first 10 points to lead 36-26.
After MSU pulled within 36-29, Southeast delivered a 14-0 knockout blow as the Racers went scoreless for nearly seven minutes.
Southeast, up 50-29 after the surge, never saw its lead dip under the 12-point final margin the rest of the way.
"I challenged the team at halftime, and they responded well to it in the second half," Margenthaler said. "I thought the start of the second half was key."
The Redhawks held MSU, the OVC's second-highest scoring team at 68.6 points per game entering the night, more than 10 points below their season average.
Southeast allowed a season-best 27.7-percent field-goal shooting, which drew praise from MSU coach Rob Cross.
"They play extremely hard," Cross said. "We didn't shoot the ball well enough and weren't aggressive enough against their defense."
Southeast has scored at least 70 points in consecutive games after previously reaching that level only once, during a season-opening 78-66 win over Wright State.
The Redhawks also shot their third-highest field-goal percentage of the season both overall (43.1) and from 3-point range (43.8 on 7 of 16). Southeast also had a season-high 20 assists and a season-high plus-12 rebounding margin (49-37).
"It's pretty obvious now we're growing as a basketball team," said Margenthaler, whose squad improved to 5-1 at home, including 2-0 in OVC play at the Show Me Center. "To win two home games to start conference play is great."
Southeast concludes a three-game homestand Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against nonconference opponent Saint Louis University.