Calvin Williams used a boxing analogy to describe what happened Thursday during Southeast Missouri State's Ohio Valley Conference opener.
"They [Austin Peay] threw the first punch," said Williams, the Redhawks' junior center.
The Governors kept punching, and the result wasn't pretty.
Two-time defending OVC regular-season champion Austin Peay led from start to finish and manhandled the host Redhawks 91-67 in a game that was a blowout most of the way.
Williams knows what the Redhawks (2-5, 0-1) must do tonight when Tennessee State (2-4, 0-1) visits the Show Me Center in another OVC matchup.
"We have to throw the first punch," Williams said.
That would be a welcomed sight for Southeast acting coach Zac Roman, who said he had no idea why Austin Peay came out more aggressive than the Redhawks.
Roman said the Governors had more energy than Southeast to begin the contest, which he termed "unacceptable at home."
To turn that around tonight, Roman said: "We just have to show up, put our hard hats on and go to work.
"With the limited numbers [only eight scholarship players have been available for the first six games], we have to be a blue collar team. We just have to come out and compete."
That's especially true against a TSU squad that doesn't play nearly as well as Austin Peay, but has as much raw talent as anybody in the conference.
The Tigers, who advanced to last season's OVC tournament championship game before losing to Austin Peay, dropped Thursday's league opener 71-61 at Eastern Illinois.
"They'll come in here really wanting to get a win," Roman said.
TSU features the OVC's second-leading scorer in 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Gerald Robinson, averaging 20.7 points per game.
Jerrell Houston, a 6-8 senior forward who began his college career at Mississippi State, follows with a 14.5 average. He leads the Tigers with 8.5 rebounds per game.
Robinson and Houston both were selected to the preseason all-OVC team.
A third scoring option for the Tigers is 6-8 sophomore forward Darius Cox (14.2 ppg), who joined Robinson and Houston as returning starters.
Stephen Evans, a 6-9 sophomore center, rounds out the OVC's tallest front line that is helping the Tigers outrebound the opposition by more than four per game.
"They've got size, they've got athletes," Roman said.
Southeast and TSU both figure to be hungry for a victory, especially since there won't be another conference game until January.
So tonight's loser will be saddled with an 0-2 OVC record through the holidays.
While there still will be 16 league games remaining, that wouldn't be a favorable position.
Williams, Southeast's top player so far with averages of 16.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, believes the Redhawks will be a factor in the OVC race no matter what they looked like Thursday.
But Williams knows the Redhawks must start proving their worth tonight.
"The season's still early," Williams said. "We just need to regroup. We're going to be good."