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Redhawks open season tonight with Truman St.
Considering the way Southeast Missouri State struggled with a pair of Division II teams during its exhibition schedule, you wouldn't expect the Redhawks to take tonight's season opener lightly.
At least coach Gary Garner hopes that is the case when Division II Truman State visits the Show Me Center for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
"I think it will help us. It maybe would have even been good to lose the other night, because it will get your attention more," said Garner, referring to Saturday's 59-55 win over Arkansas Tech. "But we'll use the fact that they played us close.
"You always worry that your players will overlook a Division II opponent, and that's only human nature, but we'll try to make sure that doesn't happen."
Southeast's exhibition opener, an 89-76 victory over Missouri-St. Louis in which the Redhawks trailed by 12 points late in the first half, also wasn't a scintillating performance -- not that Garner expected any different.
"It's so obvious by both of those exhibition games that we're an inexperienced team," said Garner, whose squad returned just four players -- and only two starters -- from last year. "But that's what exhibition games are for.
"We're not very good right now, but we're going to get a lot better. We got better last week and we're going to get better this week."
Truman State, located in Kirksville, Mo., was just 8-19 last season, but coach Jack Schrader expects the Bulldogs to be improved this year.
"We have a more veteran group than we've had in the past," Schrader said. "We've been close to being pretty good, but we've dropped a lot of close games. Hopefully that [having veteran players] will help us."
Unlike Southeast, Truman State has already played a game that counts on its record, as the Bulldogs opened their season Tuesday night with a 92-42 rout of Lincoln Christian College.
Andy Calmes, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound junior forward who was an honorable mention all-MIAA pick last year, led the Bulldogs with 20 points. He hit eight of 10 field-goal attempts.
The Bulldogs return one other honorable mention all-MIAA selection from last season in senior point guard Chip Sodemann.
"Those two [Calmes and Sodemann] are pretty good players for us," Schrader said.
Truman State had its way with overmatched Lincoln Christian College, shooting 51.5 percent from the field and holding the visitors to 25.4 percent -- but Schrader knows those figures are sure to change tonight.
"It's obvious they're going to be superior to us physicalwise," Schrader said. "But you still have to prepare to play."
Schrader said he likes the idea of playing a Division I program, especially since Southeast and the Bulldogs were longtime rivals in the old MIAA, when Truman State was known at Northeast Missouri State.
"We have roots back when we were in the MIAA, and it's a great venue to play," Schrader said. "They're Division I, and all Division II players want to prove themselves against that level of competition. It forces you to get ready to play at a top level."
Although Southeast should be heavily favored tonight, Garner expects Truman State to be a solid, well-coached team with the potential to pull an upset if the Redhawks don't come ready to play.
"They'll be very disciplined, and they'll take good shots," Garner said. "I coached Division II for a long time, and I know how big a game it is for a Division II team to play a Division I team.
"This will be like their Super Bowl. They'll come in here trying to pull off a big upset. We have to make sure that doesn't happen. The exhibition games were just that, exhibitions. But this game is for real."