The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team hasn't looked like a squad expected to contend for another Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title.
Coach John Ishee believes there are extenuating circumstances, and he's still confident the Redhawks will be a factor in the OVC race.
A good start toward that would be to experience success on the road over the next three days.
Southeast (4-8, 0-2 OVC) resumes its conference schedule today with a 5:30 p.m. contest at Tennessee Tech (3-9, 1-0).
The Redhawks then travel to Alabama for Monday's 5:30 p.m. matchup with Jacksonville State (3-8, 0-1).
"We've got a lot of the season left," said Ishee, who led the Redhawks to OVC regular-season titles in his two previous years at the school. "We've got 16 OVC games left. We've got a lot of time to get out of the hole. We'll get there."
While Ishee acknowledges Southeast has to improve many aspects of its play, two things beyond the Redhawks' control also have held them back.
First is a rugged nonconference schedule that has featured games against teams from three of the nation's elite conferences -- the Big East, ACC and Big 12.
Southeast also has faced squads from notable leagues like Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the Missouri Valley.
"We've played a very tough schedule," said Ishee, whose squad has lost four straight and seven of eight. "That's not conducive to having a good record."
Second is the health of the Redhawks' two most experienced players who also are arguably their top two players.
Senior wing Sonya Daugherty missed most of four games with a knee injury, although she has returned to nearly full strength.
Senior point guard Tarina Nixon has missed the past three contests with a finger injury that has hampered her most of the season. She is expected back in the lineup today.
"It seems like we haven't had Sonya and Tarina on the court healthy at the same time in forever," Ishee said.
Today Southeast takes on the top women's basketball program in OVC history, albeit one that has fallen on hard times.
Tennessee Tech has won 15 OVC regular-season championships and nine OVC tournament titles, both conference records.
But the Eagles have had losing records the past two seasons and last year didn't even make the OVC tournament.
"They have tremendous tradition," Ishee said. "They've been down the last couple of years, but they're on their way back."
Like Southeast, the Eagles have faced a brutal nonconference schedule, which helps explain their 3-9 overall record.
Tennessee Tech routed Jacksonville State 84-60 at home in its only OVC action to date.
Blair Bowens, a 5-foot-6 senior guard, leads the Eagles with an average of 13.9 points per game.
Southeast will look for its first road win of the season today.