Redhawks look to end Tech's dominance at home tonight

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Eagles have won 10 straight games against Southeast.

To say that Tennessee Tech has dominated the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team in recent years would not be doing the situation justice.

The Eagles have owned the Redhawks, winning 10 straight games in the series. Southeast's last victory over Tech came during the 2002-03 season.

Southeast will try to break through finally against Tech tonight when the squads meet in a 7:30 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference tipoff at the Show Me Center.

The Redhawks, 5-4 overall, won their OVC opener Thursday night, 102-95 over visiting Tennessee State.

Tech, 3-6 overall, is 1-1 in league play after Thursday's 72-53 win at Eastern Illinois.

"It's a little beef, a little rivalry," said Southeast sophomore forward Calvin Williams of the matchup with Tech. "But it's a new season, a new team."

Last year the Eagles beat the Redhawks three times, including 87-80 at the Show Me Center as Southeast saw an 18-point lead late in the first half evaporate.

The other two meetings, in Cookeville, Tenn., were more decisive as Tech won 91-76 and later posted an 88-60 rout in the first round of the OVC tournament.

But there is a reason why the Eagles have been tough for Southeast to beat in recent years. They've been plenty good.

Tech has finished among the top three in the OVC each of the past eight seasons, including winning three league titles.

Last year's Tech squad went 19-13 overall and tied for second in the 11-team OVC with a 13-7 record.

From that group, the Eagles returned two all-conference players in first-teamer Anthony Fisher and second-teamer Amadi McKenzie.

"We'll have our hands full," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said. "All along, when we looked at our schedule before the season, we said two of the most talented teams in the league were coming in here the first week [of the OVC season]."

The Eagles had been struggling until they appeared to click on all cylinders during Thursday's romp at Eastern Illinois, which was their first victory over a Division I opponent this season.

Fisher, a 6-foot-3 senior point guard, is the OVC's No. 5 scorer with an average of 16 points per game.

McKenzie, a 6-7 senior forward, ranks eighth in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounding with 14.9 points and 6.9 boards per game. He is fifth in field-goal shooting at 56.7 percent.

Throw in 6-9 junior center Daniel Northern -- who is 14th in the OVC in scoring (13.8), third in rebounding (8.6) and second in blocks (18 total) -- and the Eagles have quite a three-headed monster.

"They've got three guys that can really stand out," Edgar said. "We're going to have to make special note of them and not let the others beat us."

Tech is averaging a healthy 79.3 points per game and is by far the league's top rebounding team with an average of plus 5.3.

But the Eagles are last in the conference in 3-point shooting (26.6 percent).

"We're a work in progress," Tech coach Mike Sutton said early in the week, before his team blasted Eastern Illinois. "We have a lot of work to do."

Edgar feels the same way about the Redhawks, although he is encouraged by the continued improvement they appear to be making.

"I think we keep getting better," Edgar said.

Edgar also cautions that, while getting off to a 2-0 OVC start and beating one of the league's perennial top squads would be nice, he doesn't want to make too much of tonight's game.

"It's No. 2 of 20," said Edgar, referring to the 20-game OVC schedule. "They're really all of the same importance. They all count as one."

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