Redhawks begin their final push to secure a berth in the OVC tourney

Thursday, February 14, 2008
Southeast's Marcus Rhodes put up a shot during the Redhawks' game against Austin Peay at the Show Me Center earlier this season. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Southeast enters today's game tied for eighth place in the league.

The struggling Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team should have a good chance, on paper at least, to get healthy tonight.

But the way things have been going for the Redhawks, they can't take anything for granted.

The Redhawks need a win in the worst way when Eastern Illinois visits the Show Me Center for a 7:30 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference matchup.

Southeast (12-14, 7-9) has lost nine of its last 10 games. The Redhawks are tied for eighth in the 11-team OVC. The top eight finishers make the conference tournament.

"We need to get back on track," senior center Mike Rembert said. "We just need to get in the tournament. If we do, we've got a good enough team to win it."

EIU (4-20, 3-13) is in 10th place and has been eliminated from contention for an OVC tournament spot.

The Panthers still could force a three-way tie for eighth place, if they win their final four league games, while Southeast and Tennessee State both lose their last four. But EIU would fall short in the tie-breaker.

Still, Southeast coach Scott Edgar doesn't expect the Panthers to roll over for the Redhawks.

"We have no reason at all to look beyond this opponent and think this will be an easy game," Edgar said. "The only advantage we have coming in is record wise. But at 7:30, that's thrown out."

Southeast finishes its OVC schedule with three of its final four games at home, but the Redhawks shouldn't feel too comfortable there. The Redhawks have lost three of their last four Show Me Center contests.

"We have to establish our home court again," Edgar said.

EIU's season took a turn for the worse after it upset Murray State in overtime Jan. 3 as standout sophomore guard Romain Martin began having serious foot problems.

Martin hardly has played during the Panthers' last 11 games, and when he has taken the court, he has been ineffective.

Martin, the reigning OVC co-freshman of the year, was among the league's top scorers and 3-point shooters before his injury. He missed Southeast's 82-71 win at EIU on Jan. 5, and is questionable for tonight.

"When the conference season started, they thought they had one of the better players in the conference, and they did," Edgar said. "We also had an all-conference player we lost."

Senior forward Brandon Foust, a preseason all-OVC pick, has missed the last eight games after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Foust is Southeast's second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

While EIU's record is horrendous, the Panthers largely have been competitive.

"They have been right in every game, with a few exceptions," Edgar said.

Of the Redhawks' last four conference contests, three are against teams they already have defeated.

The lone exception is Saturday's date at fifth-place Tennessee-Martin, which concludes Southeast's OVC road schedule. The Skyhawks routed the Redhawks 90-71 on Feb. 2 in Cape Girardeau.

"Hopefully we can win [tonight] and get some momentum going to Martin," Edgar said.

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