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OVC-leading Govs visit tonight

Monday, January 29, 2007

(Photo)
Southeast Missouri State guard Roderick Pearson will have to sit out tonight's OVC game after picking up two technical fouls in Saturday's loss to Murray State.
(Fred Lynch)
Southeast will try to end Austin Peay's 10-game winning streak.

Southeast Missouri State turned in by far its worst performance of the Ohio Valley Conference season Saturday night as visiting Murray State trounced the Redhawks 85-67.

But at least the Redhawks don't have to wait long to try and get that sour taste out of their mouths.

Southeast has an opportunity to bounce back tonight against the OVC's first-place team as Austin Peay visits the Show Me Center.

The Governors (13-6, 10-1) are riding a 10-game winning streak entering the 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

"We'll regroup and try to get back up," said Southeast coach Scott Edgar, whose squad is 8-14 overall and a seventh-place 6-7 in OVC play.

After pulling out a 61-59 win at Morehead State Wednesday night, the Redhawks entered Saturday's contest with arch-rival Murray State not only looking to climb above .500 in the OVC for the first time this season, but also sweep the regular-season series from the Racers for the first time ever.

Instead, the Redhawks were barely competitive against the Racers, who led for all but a little more than two minutes of the game.

It was Southeast's most lopsided OVC loss this season, and only the Redhawks' second conference defeat by more than seven points.

Southeast had won five of its previous seven games, and the two losses had been highly competitive: A one-pointer at Austin Peay and a seven-pointer against Tennessee Tech, in which the squads were tied in the final minutes.

That's why Southeast players and coaches seemed so stunned by Saturday's performance that saw the Redhawks shoot 27.1 percent from the field and allow the Racers to shoot 56.1 percent.

But the Redhawks have shown the ability to bounce back from losses this season, and they're banking on that happening tonight.

"We've always recovered from losses," senior guard Terrick Willoughby said. "I look for that to happen again. If we're ready to play, we can beat anybody in this league."

The Redhawks will certainly face quite a challenge tonight, even though they will no doubt be encouraged by the way they played Austin Peay earlier in the season despite missing two starters.

On Jan. 13 in Clarksville, Tenn., the game was tied with under three minutes remaining before the Govs squeezed out a 68-67 win.

Southeast played that night without Willoughby, who was out with mononucleosis, and junior center Mike Rembert, who served a one-game OVC suspension for being ejected from the previous contest after receiving two technical fouls.

"We lost by one at their house and we should have snuck out with a win," Southeast junior guard David Johnson said.

The Redhawks will also likely be shorthanded tonight as freshman point guard Roderick Pearson will no doubt have to sit out after he received two technical fouls against Murray State, although Southeast does not expect to receive official word from the OVC until today.

Austin Peay has been hands-down the OVC's most surprising team after being picked sixth in the league's preseason poll.

The Govs start no seniors and no player taller than 6-foot-5 -- yet they have not lost an OVC game since a 70-66 setback at Morehead State on Dec. 7. Austin Peay has posted nine straight league wins.

Austin Peay solidified its hold on first place in the OVC with Saturday's 66-48 home win over second-place Samford, the league's preseason favorite. The Govs lead the Bulldogs by two games in the loss column.

While Austin Peay coach Dave Loos is pleased with the Govs' current position in the OVC, he knows the race is far from over.

And Loos knows the Govs face perhaps their most difficult stretch of the conference season this week with three road games, including Thursday at Murray State and Saturday at Tennessee State.

"It puts us a couple of games ahead on the loss side," Loos told the Leaf-Chronicle newspaper following the victory over Samford. "But we're just one game over being halfway through [the OVC schedule], so there's a long way to go. And we've got one heck of a road trip coming up this week.

"I told our players, we'll find out what we're made of this week. But I got a pretty good idea of it tonight."

Drake Reed, a 6-5 sophomore forward, leads the Govs' offensively with an average of 15.6 points per game. He is shooting 50.4 percent from the field.

Fernandez Lockett, a 6-5 junior forward, averages 11.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, the latter figure ranking second in the OVC. He shoots 49.1 from the floor.

Austin Peay features two of the league's top three 3-point shooters, with 5-9 junior point guard Derek Wright first at 43.4 percent and 6-5 junior guard Todd Babbington third at 40.8 percent.

History certainly doesn't favor the Redhawks tonight. They have lost 14 of the last 15 meetings with Austin Peay, Southeast's only win over the Govs during that stretch coming at the Show Me Center during the 2004-05 season.

Noteworthy

* Southeast is scheduled to find out its Feb. 17 opponent in the Bracket Buster either today or Tuesday. The Redhawks will host an opponent, after playing on the road during last year's Bracket Buster.


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