A day after a staggering offensive showcase, #3 Southeast Missouri (25-7) used a remarkable defensive effort to stomp #1 University of Tennessee-Martin (UTM) (22-10) and win the 2020 Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Tournament title with a 67-47 victory at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana.
SEMO won its second OVC Tournament Championship in program history and first since 2006-07. The Redhawks went undefeated at 3-0 in this year’s conference tournament winning each of their final two games by double figures against the tourney’s top-two seeds.
The Redhawks, who claimed the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, will learn where it will be seeded during the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Show on Monday, March 16. The selection show will air live at 6 p.m., CT, on ESPN.
The 64-team NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will begin with first round games on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21.
Defensively, SEMO held UTM to only 33.3 percent (18-of-54) from the field and did not give up a 3-pointer to a Skyhawk team which entered the game as the second-most accurate 3-point shooting team in OVC play. The Skyhawks had a 3-pointer in every game this year except this one. They were 0-of-11 from beyond the arc. SEMO also turned UTM over 17 times and scored 15 points off those miscues.
SEMO started strong once again and trailed only once in the entire first half.
Tamiah Stanford made a free throw for UTM, which led only 17 seconds in the game.
A second-chance basket by Jessie Harshberger put the Redhawks ahead by five and Roshala Scoot later made two free throws to increase SEMO’s lead to 14-6 with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter. Thompson’s turnaround jumper capped the Redhawks lead at 17-9 at the end of the opening period.
SEMO scored the first six points of the second quarter to stretch its lead to double figures. Denisha Gardener, Carrie Shepard and Thompson all scored in the first 1:14 to give the Redhawks a 23-9 advantage.
The Redhawks led by 14 on two other occasions before heading into halftime with a 32-19 lead.
UTM’s top scoring threat, Chelsey Perry missed her first seven field goals of the game, but came alive to score 10 points as UTM edged the Redhawks, 14-12, in the third quarter. Both teams ended the third quarter going scoreless for over three minutes.
Perry narrowed the Redhawks lead to single digits (44-35) with 8:40 left to play, but a steal and layup by Thompson put SEMO back up, 46-35. UTM and SEMO struggled to a combined 1-of-10 effort from the field in the first 3:15 of the fourth quarter.
SEMO then blasted UTM with a 14-2 run to put the exclamation point on its 25th win of the season.
Thompson wrapped up a phenomenal OVC Tournament by scoring a game-high 25 points. She shot 8-of-19 from the field and 9-of-14 at the free throw line. She dished out four assists and two steals, as well.
For the tournament, Thompson averaged 31 points per game over SEMO’s three wins. She had a double-double in two of those three starts. Thompson claimed the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Shephard and Harshberger followed with 13 points apiece.
Shephard and Taelour Pruitt joined Thompson on the OVC All-Tournament Team.
The 2020 OVC Women’s Basketball Tournament crown is SEMO’s fourth title of the 2019-20 campaign. SEMO also won regular-season championships in football and soccer, and a tournament title in volleyball.
For more information, visit GoSoutheast.com.