(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
Southeast had a golden opportunity to get back into the win column against one of the Ohio Valley Conference's top squads.
But visiting Eastern Kentucky used a late 6-0 run to surge past the Redhawks 53-49 Saturday afternoon.
"This is a tough one," Southeast coach Ty Margenthaler said. "But I told our team in the locker room that our effort was tremendous."
The Redhawks fell to 8-14 overall and 2-7 in OVC play. They remain fifth in the six-team OVC West Division and 10th overall in the 12-team league. The top eight finishers qualify for the OVC tournament.
"It's frustrating. We were in it until the end," senior guard Bailie Roberts said. "Letting that one slip out of our hands ... it's not the end of the season, but it definitely stings."
EKU (13-7, 7-2) moved into first place in the OVC East Division and up to second in the overall conference standings as the Colonels won for the sixth time in their last seven games.
"They're a good basketball team, senior oriented," said Margenthaler after Southeast lost for the third straight time at the Show Me Center after beginning the season 6-1 at home.
Southeast played some of its best defense of the season, holding EKU to 32.1-percent shooting, and the Redhawks committed a season-low eight turnovers after they were averaging nearly 17 turnovers per game.
But a woeful offensive performance wound up dooming Southeast.
"I thought defensively we played hard, got some stops," senior forward Brittany Harriel said. "Offensively, nothing was going on for us."
The Redhawks shot a season-low 26.5 percent from the field and made just 4 of 22 3-pointers for 18.2 percent -- their third-lowest mark of the campaign from beyond the arc.
"We were getting open shots. We moved the ball pretty well. We just weren't hitting," Roberts said. "We didn't score enough to win. You're not going to win scoring like that."
Southeast, in a game that was tight all the way -- the biggest leads were eight-point advantages by the Redhawks in each half -- still appeared poised to pull off the upset.
The Redhawks, ahead 22-16 at halftime, opened up a 32-24 lead early in the second half. A 10-0 EKU run put the Colonels on top 34-32 midway through the period for their first lead since 10-9.
No more than two points separated the squads for the next eight minutes.
Southeast led 41-40 with less than four minutes to play and the teams were tied at 43-43 with under two minutes remaining.
That's when EKU took control by scoring six straight points, going ahead for good on floater in the lane by senior guard Brittany Coles with 1 minute, 56 seconds left.
Southeast then committed one of its few turnovers, and junior guard Marie Carpenter was fouled on a fast break with 1:41 left. She hit both free throws.
The Redhawks came up empty on their next possession, and a Coles follow shot after a missed 3-pointer made it 49-43 with 53 seconds remaining.
EKU made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 45 seconds to hold on. Southeast cut the deficit to 52-49 with 17 seconds left, but Carpenter hit 1 of 2 from the line one second later for the final margin.
Harriel paced Southeast with 16 points, 11 in the second half. Roberts had 13 points, 11 in the opening half. Junior point guard Jordan Hunter added 11 points, nine in the final period.
Junior forward Patricia Mack grabbed all 10 of her rebounds in the first half. She fouled out with just under six minutes left.
Southeast did regain the services of senior forward Courtney Shiffer, who missed the last five games with a concussion. Shiffer played 22 minutes off the bench to aid the Redhawks' frontline depth.
"She gave everything she had," Margenthaler said.
The Redhawks return to action Monday, visiting Austin Peay (6-15, 1-8) for a 7 p.m. tipoff.