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Red-hot Redhawks seek win at UTM
Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee-Martin are certainly heading in opposite directions these days -- not that it makes Redhawks coach Gary Garner feel very comfortable entering tonight's matchup.
The surging Redhawks (9-10, 4-4 Ohio Valley Conference) will put their three-game winning streak on the line when they face the reeling Skyhawks (4-15, 1-7) in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff in Martin, Tenn.
UTM has lost five straight games and 10 of its last 11. The Skyhawks, despite being picked to finish sixth in the OVC's preseason poll, are mired in 10th place in the 11-team league.
"I know they've been struggling, but they may be as talented as anybody in the league. They're as athletic as anybody," Garner said. "I know a lot of people, myself included, thought they might be a real darkhorse in the league this year.
"It won't be nearly as easy as people think."
Especially considering Southeast has lost at UTM the past three seasons, with none of the defeats being closer than 16 points.
"It's been a tough place for us to play, I don't know why," Garner said. "Even when we had our really good teams, we've always had trouble winning there."
But Garner hopes Southeast's current three-game winning streak -- its longest since the 2000-01 season -- helps the Redhawks take plenty of confidence on the road, as they play their next three contests away from the Show Me Center, including Saturday night's matchup at rival Murray State.
"It has to give us confidence," said Garner, whose team's three most recent victories came at home.
The Redhawks have lost all three of their OVC road games so far, but senior forward Dainmon Gonner said there's no reason they can't win away from the Show Me Center. Gonner is the OVC's leading scorer at 20.4 points per game, which puts him 13th nationally. He is also first in the OVC in steals per game with 2.9, which is 11th nationally.
"If we play good, it doesn't matter if we're at home or on the road," Gonner said. "We can go win on the road."
Gonner and senior forward Reggie Golson, former teammates at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, have formed quite a one-two punch on the front line. Golson is third in the OVC in scoring (16.8 ppg), first in rebounding (8.7 rpg), first in blocked shots (46) and third in field-goal percentage (56.4).
"We just need to go on the road and play like we've been playing at home," Golson said.
Continuing to limit their turnovers could be a key for the Redhawks, who have averaged just eight turnovers in their last three games after being plagued by turnovers during some of their early OVC losses.
The Redhawks have also shot well recently, hitting 52.7 percent and 56.1 percent in their last two games. They rank 49th nationally in field-goal percentage (46.9) and 42nd in 3-point percentage (38.6).
"We're taking care of the ball, and we've been shooting the ball well," Garner said.
UTM, which returned plenty of experience from last year, is last in the OVC in field-goal percentage (41.4) and 3-point percentage (28.5), but the Skyhawks have two of the better inside players in the league in 6-foot-5 junior forward Jared Newson (14.9 ppg) and 6-9 junior center Cleve Woodfork (11.4 ppg).
"We have really struggled shooting the ball this year," UTM coach Bret Campbell said. "Our perimeter play hasn't been nearly what we thought it would be."
After losing some close OVC games early, the Skyhawks have suffered three of their last four conference defeats by at least 16 points. UTM plays its next four league games at home, which Campbell hopes will prove therapeutic.
"I'm still optimistic that maybe we can get something going over these last eight games," he said. "Maybe we can get something going at home this week."