Redhawks men's basketball team faces NIU Huskies today

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Like most coaches, Dickey Nutt is an impatient sort.

But Southeast Missouri State's first-year men's basketball coach realizes patience is crucial as he attempts to build the program he inherited.

So Nutt isn't close to getting down on the Redhawks despite two losses to start the season.

"We're going to keep blinders on and we're going to build and build and play with these young guys. ... I believe in them, and I think one day the sun will shine on this basketball team and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later," Nutt said following Wednesday's 73-49 home loss to Arkansas State.

The sun hasn't shone on the Redhawks for a while as their losing streak reached 21 games, the longest active streak in the country.

Of course, Nutt and most of the current Redhawks haven't been involved with the bulk of that streak. Only four players returned from last year's 3-27 squad that ended the season with 19 consecutive losses.

Putting an end to the streak won't get any easier today as Southeast visits Northern Illinois for a 3:30 p.m. tipoff in DeKalb, Ill.

The Huskies routed Southeast 97-73 last year in Cape Girardeau and returned four starters among 13 letter winners.

NIU did not have a strong 2008-2009 season, going 10-20 overall and 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference, but has been picked second in the MAC West Division.

"It's only going to get tougher for us," Nutt said of Southeast's schedule over the next few weeks.

The Huskies (1-2) dropped their first two games on the road against Big Ten Conference teams, 77-55 at Northwestern and 80-61 at Illinois.

NIU got into the win column Friday with an 85-57 home rout of Tennessee State, which like Southeast competes in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Sean Kowal, a 6-foot-11 junior center, recorded his third career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds against Tennessee State.

Kowal, who had a double-double against Southeast last year with 21 points and 13 rebounds, is averaging 11.3 points per game.

Junior guard Darion Anderson, NIU's top scorer last season at 16.9 points per game, is averaging 9.3 points and a team-high 10.3 rebounds.

Junior guard Xavier Silas led NIU with 18 points in the opener against Northwestern but has missed the last two games with an injury.

"They'll be another very tough opponent for us," Nutt said.

Offense has been Southeast's primary problem so far as the Redhawks have failed to crack 50 points or shoot better than 32 percent in either game.

The Redhawks shot 27.5 percent in a 59-41 season-opening loss at Saint Louis University. They hit 31.5 percent against Arkansas State.

"That won't cut it," Nutt said.

Nutt characterizes Southeast as "very much a work in progress" and that likely won't change for a while as he continues to search for the best combination of players.

"We're playing a lot of players. We're still mixing and matching," Nutt said. "We're certainly trying to find some people that can give us some consistent minutes both defensively and offensively.

"Unfortunately for us right now the guys that can knock down a shot are not as good defensively and the guys that are better defensively are not as good offensively."

Following today's game, Southeast returns home for a Tuesday night contest against Eastern Michigan, also a member of the Mid-American Conference.

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