Late first-half push sends Otahks to comfortable win

Sunday, January 20, 2002

MURRAY, Ky. -- Southeast Missouri State University's women's basketball team was able to enjoy a rare Ohio Valley Conference road romp Saturday.

The Otahkians used a surge late in the first half to pull ahead of host Murray State and Southeast went on to win 71-55.

Southeast, in winning its third straight league game -- including two in a row on the road -- improved to 11-6 overall, 4-3 in the OVC. The Lady Racers, who suffered their fourth consecutive loss, fell to 7-9 and 2-4.

"You never get a blowout in the conference," Southeast coach Ed Arnzen said. "Murray State had lost three in a row and they got upset Thursday night. I thought if we could get on top of them we could put them away and we did that late in the first half and early in the second half."

Veronica Benson helped spark a Southeast run late in the opening half as the Otahkians broke a 31-31 tie and went into the locker room ahead 39-33. The senior guard had four of her team-high 18 points during that stretch.

"We had a good game and it's a big win for us," said Benson, who hit seven of 11 shots from the field and also led the Otahkians in assists with four.

Lori Chase followed with 16 points and four steals for the Otahkians. Pam Iversen had 12 points and 11 rebounds as she went over the 1,000-point mark for her career. Tiffany Melis added 11 points and had her best shooting game in a while, hitting four of six from the floor, including two of four 3-pointers.

"It's about time I contributed a little bit. It felt good," Melis said. "I think we came out ready to play. Even in the locker room before the game, you could tell. We played as a team and everybody contributed."

Arnzen was particularly pleased that the Otahkians had only 11 turnovers.

"That was a big key for us," he said. "I can live with 11 turnovers."

Said Benson with a smile, "Before every game, every practice, he (Arnzen) talks about turnovers."

MSU, which had 20 turnovers, was led by Denise McDonald with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Brittany Park added 16 points.

The Lady Racers led by as many as five points twice in the first half, including 28-23 with a little more than five minutes remaining.

Southeast pulled into a 31-31 tie on a short jumper by Tisa Thomas, who scored eight first-half points off the bench. The Otahkians then took the lead for good on freshman Andrea Koeper's only basket of the game, a layup with 2:04 left in the opening period.

Benson scored the next four points on layups as the Otahkians moved in front 37-31 and LaShelle Porter's bucket with eight seconds remaining made it 39-33 at the intermission.

The Otahkians scored the first four points of the second half to go up by 10 and they coasted from there, leading by double digits most of the rest of the way.

"We've got some momentum now," said Arnzen after the Otahkians' third straight win.

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