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Record 3-point night helps boost Otahks to OVC win
MOREHEAD, Ky. -- Natasha Starkes almost singlehandedly made sure Southeast Missouri State University's women had more than enough of a cushion to win its Ohio Valley Conference road opener Saturday night.
Starkes, a junior guard in her first season with the Otahkians, scored eight straight points during a short stretch midway through the second half as Southeast built a 10-point lead on its way to an 83-63 victory over Morehead State.
The Otahkians improved to 8-4 overall and 2-0 in the OVC. The Eagles, one of the preseason conference favorites, fell to 9-5 and 2-1.
"This is a big win against a team that has really good talent," Southeast first-year coach B.J. Smith said. "This is a tough road trip, and to get off to a good start like this is important."
When Starkes began her outburst, Southeast was clinging to a 56-54 lead. She hit two 3-pointers sandwiched around a follow shot as the Otahkians went ahead 64-54 with eight minutes left. MSU got no closer than eight points the rest of the way, and Southeast led by as many as 21.
Starkes, who entered the contest averaging 5.4 points per game in a reserve role and had a previous season high of nine points, finished with 19 points. She hit seven of nine field-goal attempts, including five of six 3-pointers. Starkes also had four rebounds and three assists.
"I was just feeling it," Starkes said. "It's conference time. It's time for us to step up."
Smith said Starkes, a solid scorer last season at Trinity Valley Junior College in Texas, has the capability to consistently perform the way she did Saturday.
"When we recruited Natasha, we expected her to come in and do some things," Smith said. "She's a junior-college kid, and sometimes it just takes a while to adjust."
Starkes agreed, saying, "I've just been trying to adjust to this level."
Also scoring in double figures for the Otahkians were senior forward Lori Chase (15 points), junior guard Kenja White (14) and junior forward Carina Souza (11). Chase and junior center Miah Shelford both grabbed seven rebounds.
Starkes and Chase, who made four of seven 3-pointers, helped the Otahkians set school records for 3-pointers made and attempted as they hit 16 of 31 from long distance.
MSU got 14 points and nine rebounds from Tasha Gales. Travece Turner added 12 points and Kandi Brown had 10.
The game was far from an artistic masterpiece: The teams combined for an incredible 62 turnovers, 32 by MSU and 30 by Southeast. But the Otahkians weren't complaining.
"As chaotic as we were playing, to settle down and be able to win the game is big," Smith said. "Our two freshman, Tiffane Ryan and Shannon Proffit, played well. They keep getting better."
Ryan started at point guard in place of Sarah Costello, who is out with an injured foot. Ryan had six points and three assists. Proffit came off the bench to contribute five points, three assists and three steals.
"Sarah really kind of makes us go, and to win without her is big," Smith said. "Tiffane really did a good job."
Southeast, which led by as many as six points in the first half, fell behind by nine late in the period and trailed 39-33 at the intermission.
But the Otahkians stormed back in the second half. They finally took the lead for good at 54-51 on Ryan's 3-pointer with 10:21 left. Southeast rolled the rest of the way, thanks in part to Starkes' personal eight-point burst.
"To go on the road and beat one of the best teams in the conference, this is a big win for us," Starkes said.
The Otahkians will remain on the road to face another top-level OVC team as they visit Eastern Kentucky (11-4, 3-0) Monday night.
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