Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team wins before young crowd

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Southeast Missouri State guard Kara Wright converts a layup against SIU Edwardsville on Monday at the Show Me Center. The Redhawks won 67-62. (ADAM VOGLER)

The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team played a strong game and picked up a much-needed win.

The Redhawks were quick to credit by far their biggest home crowd of the season with a major assist.

"They were definitely a sixth man," senior guard Bailie Roberts said after Southeast snapped a late tie and slipped past SIU Edwardsville 67-62.

Monday's unusual 11 a.m. tipoff was part of the Redhawks' inaugural "Classroom on Court" program that welcomed students from area schools to the game for an educational field trip.

More than 1,400 youngsters signed up -- and they came to the Show Me Center in full force.

Southeast Missouri State guard Jordan Hunter hits a free throw to give the Redhawks a five-point lead with two seconds left during the their 67-62 win over the Southern Illinois Edwardsville Cougars Monday, Feb. 11, at the Show Me Center. (ADAM VOGLER)

The announced crowd of 1,609, which featured primarily enthusiastic children, nearly doubled the Redhawks' previous season-high crowd. Southeast's official average attendance for its first 11 home games was 605.

"Oh my gosh, it was totally a different atmosphere," junior point guard Jordan Hunter said. "They did awesome. I think it gave us energy. It was great having a big crowd."

Southeast coach Ty Margenthaler appreciated the support as the Redhawks revived their hopes of making the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and avenged a 78-65 loss at SIUE on Jan. 28.

"Our marketing department and our assistant coaches did a great job marketing this all year long," Margenthaler said. "To have that many people here is great. We hope to continue to grow this and make it bigger and better every year."

Southeast (10-15, 4-8), which matched its OVC win total from each of the previous three seasons, remained 10th in the 12-team conference -- the top eight make the tournament -- with only four league games left.

Southeast Missouri State guard Dru Haertling drives past SIU Edwardsville guard CoCo Moore during the Redhawks’ 67-62 win over the Cougars on Monday at the Show Me Center. (ADAM VOGLER)

games out of eighth place on the loss side and closed ground on SIUE (12-12, 6-6), one of the squads they're chasing.

"What a gut check that game was. We've been there all year long, but today we held in there and finished it off," Margenthaler said. "I'm just so, so proud of this basketball team and what we did today. It was a win we really needed for a lot of reasons."

Southeast received several strong performances, led by another impressive outing from talented freshman guard Kara Wright.

Wright scored a team-high 20 points, her third outing of at least that many in the past five games. She hit 7 of 13 field goals, including 3 of 5 3-pointers, after having previously not made more than one 3-pointer in a game this season.

"I'm just playing the ball I know how to play," Wright said. "My teammates do a good job of getting me the ball."

Children cheer as rally towels are thrown into the stands during Monday’s game. Southeast’s biggest crowd of the season turned out for the 11 a.m. game that was part of the Redhawks’ inaugural “Classroom on Court” program.

Wright is Southeast's fifth-leading scorer on the season with an 8.1 average but is the Redhawks' No. 2 scorer in OVC play with a 10.4 mark. She also blocked two shots Monday and is second on the squad with 13 rejections.

"Kara is becoming a go-to player for us," Margenthaler said. "She can score in many different ways, and we need to keep building around her."

Wright began the season coming off the bench but she had started 14 straight games before Margenthaler decided to bring her off the bench Monday.

Olivia Hackmann, another freshman guard, made her first collegiate start in Wright's place. That decision was intended to jumpstart Hackmann, a key reserve who had scored just five points in her last four games.

"Just to change some things up. Olivia is a very talented player. I want to give her more confidence," Margenthaler said.

The decision worked out well from both ends.

While Wright thrived, Hackmann scored all eight of her points in the first half. She added three steals and two assists.

"I thought Olivia did really good things, and Kara handled coming off the bench very well," Margenthaler said.

Roberts, Southeast's top scorer on the season with a 10.9 average, followed Wright by scoring 17 points. She tied her career high with three 3-pointers in four attempts. All three baskets from beyond the arc came in the second half.

"Bailie made some big shots down the stretch. She wanted the ball in her hands, and it was great to have that kind of leadership," Margenthaler said.

Hunter added 12 points and a game-high six assists.

The contest was tight all the way, the biggest leads being six points by both teams. Southeast was ahead 33-31 at halftime.

After eight lead changes and eight ties -- the last at 58-58 with under five minutes remaining -- Southeast took control with a 6-0 run.

Wright's follow shot with 4 minutes, 3 seconds left put Southeast up for good at 60-58. An SIUE turnover was followed by a Roberts layup and, after a missed shot by the Cougars, Wright hit two free throws at the 2:39 mark to make it 64-58.

SIUE trailed 65-62 and had a chance to tie, but the Cougars air-balled a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.

Hunter's two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining iced the victory.

"SIUE is a really good team. It's a huge win for us," Roberts said.

Southeast shot 40.7 percent, its best figure in 10 games. SIUE shot 42.9 percent and outrebounded Southeast 35-29, but the Redhawks had only nine turnovers compared to 18 for the Cougars.

The Redhawks committed their second-fewest turnovers of the season and outscored SIUE 18-8 in points off turnovers. That helped offset another big game by powerful SIUE senior forward Raven Berry, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

"We just really put together a good performance on both ends," Margenthaler said.

Coming in front of a big crowd made things even more special.

"It was great," Wright said. "The fact they were little kids made it even louder. We fed off them."

Noteworthy

* Sophomore guard Allyson Bradshaw, Southeast's top 3-point shooter, did not play. Margenthaler said she re-aggravated a back injury during Saturday loss to Eastern Illinois.

* Southeast returns to action Saturday, visiting defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion Tennessee-Martin (11-14, 6-5) for a 4 p.m. tipoff. The Skyhawks beat the Redhawks 82-71 on Jan. 16 in Cape Girardeau.

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