Otahkians open with 1-10 EIU

Saturday, January 5, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University women's basketball coach Ed Arnzen has been around the game too long to take anybody lightly -- particularly when it comes to all-important league play.

That's why Arnzen knows the Otahkians better be plenty prepared today when they visit Eastern Illinois in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both squads.

"We can't overlook them," said Arnzen. "We have to be ready to play."

Even though it appears as if the Otahkians should be heavily favored over the Panthers. Southeast comes in with a 7-3 overall record while EIU is 1-10. The Otahkians finished a solid fourth in the OVC last year and are picked to contend for another high finish this season. The Panthers finished in the league basement a year ago and are picked to end up that way again.

Yet Arnzen emphasized that if the Otahkians get too caught up in the above, they might well end up regretting it.

"Eastern Illinois is struggling, but it's the first conference game and it's like a new season for everybody, so you know they're going to be excited about the game. And they're playing at home," he said. "We can't afford to take them lightly."

Arnzen believes the Panthers could be dangerous because they have one of the OVC's better players in 6-foot-2 sophomore center Pam O'Connor, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring (18 ppg), 10th in rebounding (5.8 rpg) and third in field-goal shooting (57.8 percent).

"They have one of the better scorers in the league and some other good players, but their guards are relatively inexperienced," Arnzen said.

Statistically, just about all the Panthers have struggled except for O'Conner as virtually no other EIU player shows up among the OVC's individual leaders. And as a team, the Panthers rank at or near the bottom in most categories.

Southeast, meanwhile, has received impressive contributions from a host of players, led by junior forward Lori Chase, who is sixth in the OVC in scoring (15.1 ppg), eighth in rebounding (6.2 rpg) and eighth in free-throw shooting (75 percent).

Following today's contest, the Otahkians will have three home games next week against teams picked to contend for upper-division OVC finishes, including favorite Tennessee Tech Tuesday, along with Eastern Kentucky Thursday and Morehead State Saturday. So Arnzen doesn't want a slip-up against EIU.

"We've got such a big week coming up, getting a win on the road in our first conference game would be big," said Arnzen.

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