Redhawks host OVC frontrunner

Thursday, January 15, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Southeast Missouri State's Jajuan Maxwell reaches for a rebound with Tennessee-Martin's Djero Riedewald in the second half Monday at the Show Me Center.

Morehead State steadily has climbed the Ohio Valley Conference men's basketball standings under Donnie Tyndall.

Tonight the Eagles come to Cape Girardeau as the OVC co-leader for their 7:45 p.m. date at the Show Me Center with free-falling Southeast Missouri State.

While the Redhawks (3-14, 0-6) continue to dip deeper into the conference basement, the Eagles (8-9, 5-1) continue their rise.

Tyndall, MSU's third-year coach, took over a team that was coming off a last-place OVC finish and led it to a 12-18 record in 2006-07 that tripled the previous season's win total.

The Eagles went 15-15 overall and a third-place 12-8 in the OVC last season as Tyndall was voted conference coach of the year.

Right now the Eagles are tied for first place and already have beaten the top three squads in the OVC preseason poll -- No. 1 Murray State, No. 2 Tennessee-Martin and No. 3 Austin Peay.

"Coach Tyndall does a great job," Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said. "He gets the most out of their talent."

The Eagles' triumph at two-time defending regular-season champion Austin Peay, which rarely loses a conference home game, was particularly impressive for Morehead State, the preseason No. 4 OVC pick.

Plus, the Eagles have been able to win both their games -- home triumphs over Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State -- since the indefinite suspension of Maze Stallworth.

Stallworth, a 6-foot-4 junior wing, is MSU's No. 3 scorer at 11.7 points per game and leads the squad with 36 3-pointers. He won't play tonight and his status for the remainder of the season is not known.

The Eagles haven't missed a beat without Stallworth, led by preseason all-OVC selections Kenneth Faried and Leon Buchanan.

Faried, a 6-8 sophomore center, has followed a solid rookie season by averaging 12.3 points and an OVC-best 11.9 rebounds, which is tied for sixth nationally.

Buchanan, a 6-5 senior forward, is MSU's top scorer with a 13.6 average.

Faried and Southeast 6-9 junior center Calvin Williams could have an interesting matchup, pitting two of the OVC's premier inside players.

Williams is averaging 17 points and 7.7 rebounds to rank sixth and second in the conference, respectively. His 2.1 blocks per game are second, just ahead of Faried's 1.9.

Williams missed Monday's loss to Tennessee-Martin with an ankle injury, but Roman said Wednesday that Williams' ankle has improved and he should be able to play tonight.

"Faried is a big-time player, a great inside player," Roman said. "We need Calvin back. The ankle's still a little tender, but it's gotten better. I think he can play."

The Eagles have been led by their defense and rebounding. MSU leads the OVC in field-goal percentage defense at 42.2 and is first in rebounding margin at plus 5.9.

MSU doesn't possess any of the league's top 10 individual scorers, with Buchanan ranking 11th and Faried 13th.

The Eagles started the season with six straight nonconference losses but have won eight of 11 games since, including five of their last six.

"They have all the pieces," Roman said. "They defend, they execute on offense. They're just playing really well right now. They're clicking."

Meanwhile, the Redhawks will try to break through on the third leg of a four-game homestand that they hoped would afford them the chance to notch some elusive victories.

So far Southeast hasn't even been close, losing by 20 points to Eastern Illinois on Saturday and by 14 points to Tennessee-Martin on Monday.

The Redhawks have lost six straight and 11 of 12. Southeast has dropped 13 consecutive conference games and posted just one win in its past 20 OVC contests dating back to last season.

"It hurts," senior forward Jaycen Herring said of the losing streak. "We just have to keep going to war, keep battling."

Roman still thinks the Redhawks can make their presence felt in the OVC.

"We just have to keep battling," Roman said. "We're going to break through. We're going to bite somebody."

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