CHARLESTON, Ill. -- The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team hung quite a while with Ohio Valley Conference powerhouse Eastern Illinois.
But the visiting Redhawks ultimately could not keep up with the powerful and experienced Panthers, who ran away to an 82-62 win Saturday afternoon.
"We had a really good week of practice, and we were right there with them," senior forward Brittany Harriel said. "We gave a good effort. They started hitting shots they weren't hitting in the first half. They really don't have any new faces. They've just consistently had a good team."
EIU beat Southeast for the eighth consecutive time and handed the Redhawks their most lopsided conference setback of the season.
The Panthers (12-8, 6-2) moved into sole possession of first place in the OVC West Division.
"They're a really good basketball team. They're playing well together," Southeast coach Ty Margenthaler said.
Despite the lopsided final score, Southeast was competitive much of the way against a senior-dominated, physical EIU squad that entered this season with the OVC's top overall (106-55) and conference (72-18) records during the previous five years.
"They're a veteran group. They know how to play," Margenthaler said. "We had a really good week of practice, and I felt really good about our game plan coming in.
"We knew the big test would be their size, their physicality. I thought they wore us down."
There were six lead changes and three ties during a first half that ended with EIU up 39-34.
Southeast scored the first nine points of the second half in less than three minutes to grab its biggest lead of the day at 43-39.
"We did a good job the first four minutes of the second half," junior forward Patricia Mack said. "We just have to carry that over."
The Redhawks couldn't.
A 3-pointer by senior forward Sydney Mitchell with just over 16 minutes left regained the lead for EIU at 47-45, and Southeast never caught up.
The Redhawks trailed 53-51 with under 14 minutes left when EIU began to pull away.
The Panthers scored eight straight points and opened up their first double-figure lead at 61-51 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Kelsey Wyss with 11:22 remaining.
Southeast cut the deficit to 61-53, but consecutive EIU 3-pointers made it 67-53. The Redhawks never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.
EIU outscored Southeast 29-11 over the final 13 minutes, 45 seconds. The Panthers' biggest lead was 24 points.
"They started making some shots they weren't making," said Margenthaler, whose squad went cold during the span. "I thought we took good shots. We got really good looks."
One of the game's biggest differences was rebounding, which Margenthaler knew would be a challenge against the Panthers.
EIU outrebounded Southeast 51-31, including 20-7 on the offensive glass.
"Rebounding killed us," Harriel said.
The Panthers outscored Southeast 18-4 in second-chance points and had a 38-18 advantage on points in the paint.
"That [rebounding] was one of our focuses in practice," Mack said. "We just didn't execute."
Four Southeast players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Bailie Roberts with 14 points. She has reached double figures in eight of the last nine games.
Harriel had 13 points, while Mack and junior point guard Jordan Hunter added 10 points apiece. Mack led in rebounding with eight.
Senior point guard Ta'Kenya Nixon, a three-time first-team all-conference selection and a two-time OVC defensive player of the year, had her usual brilliant game for the Panthers.
Nixon matched her season high with 23 points to go along with eight assists, five rebounds and three steals against just one turnover.
"She's a real good point guard. She does it all," Mack said.
Senior forward Mariah King added 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds for EIU.
EIU shot 42.1 percent from the field -- 44.1 percent in the decisive second half. Southeast shot 38.7 percent -- 37.5 percent in the final period. Both teams hit eight 3-pointers.
"This group has to continue to fight, and we have to find a way to win. We can take some good things out of this game, but we have to continue growing from here," Margenthaler said.
Southeast senior forward Courtney Shiffer missed her fourth consecutive game due to a concussion suffered during practice.
The Redhawks conclude a two-game road swing at 7 p.m. Monday against SIU Edwardsville (10-10, 4-4).