Redhawks men's basketball team takes aim at another streak

Thursday, December 3, 2009
Southeast Missouri State's LaMont Russell drives against Eastern Michigan's Jamell Harris during the first half earlier this season at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team already has ended one long losing streak this year.

The Redhawks hope to have accomplished that feat again by the end of the week.

Southeast (2-5) begins Ohio Valley Conference play with two road games, against Austin Peay (3-4) tonight and Tennessee State (1-6) on Saturday night. The Redhawks will have several more nonconference games after that before OVC play resumes in early January.

"We're excited about playing our first conference games," junior forward Cameron Butler said.

On Nov. 22 at Northern Illinois, Southeast broke the program's 21-game losing streak that ranked as the nation's longest.

Southeast Missouri State's Cameron Butler slam dunks against Eastern Michigan during their game earlier this season at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

Now the Redhawks take aim at the program's 25-game OVC losing streak that is the longest in league history and stands as the nation's longest current conference losing streak.

Southeast, 0-18 in the OVC last year, also lost its final seven conference games of 2007-08. The Redhawks last experienced a league victory on Jan. 29, 2008, with a 121-116 triple-overtime thriller against Austin Peay at the Show Me Center.

Of course, most of the current Redhawks had nothing to do with either streak, including first-year coach Dickey Nutt. Southeast has 11 newcomers on its 15-man roster.

"It's a new time," Nutt said. "We don't worry about what's happened in the past, we're just concentrating on moving forward."

While Southeast doesn't sport an impressive record against a rugged early schedule, Nutt believes the Redhawks are improving rapidly as they already nearly have as many wins as last year's 3-27 squad.

"I think we're getting better every day," Nutt said. "We just have to keep our blinders on and keep working."

Yet one more program streak will be in play tonight. Southeast has not won at Austin Peay since the 1998-99 season, dropping 10 straight in Clarksville, Tenn.

Not many teams beat the Governors on their home court as they have built and sustained one of the OVC's premier programs under Dave Loos, the league's dean of coaches in his 20th season.

With 317 victories at Austin Peay, Loos is just two wins away from having the most in OVC history. Loos features an overall college coaching record of 399-318.

The Govs have advanced to the OVC tournament championship game six of the past seven seasons.

"Any time they name the floor after you [Austin Peay plays on Dave Loos Court], you know they have a good program," Nutt said. "Dave Loos is a legend in the basketball world. He's very well respected and everybody knows him."

Austin Peay, picked to finish third in the OVC after tying for second last year, is led offensively by sophomore wing Anthony Campbell (16.6 points per game) and senior guard Wes Channels (12.1 ppg).

Campbell, the OVC's seventh-leading scorer, ranks second in 3-point shooting at 52.8 percent.

Channels, a preseason all-OVC pick, earned second-team honors last year when he averaged 16.5 points.

"They're very good," Nutt said of Austin Peay, which has won 18 of the past 20 meetings with Southeast.

Saturday's opponent, Tennessee State, is like Southeast. It is trying to rebuild under a new coach -- former Auburn assistant John Cooper -- as only four players returned from last year's team.

Tennessee State was tabbed to finish ninth in the OVC, one spot ahead of last-place Southeast.

But as far as Nutt is concerned, preseason predictions don't mean a thing.

"It's a brand new season. Everybody's 0-0," Nutt said. "You're gauged by what you do in the conference. We're excited about it."

Southeast is coming off its top all-around performance of the season, Sunday's 75-54 rout of Norfolk State in Normal, Ill.

The Redhawks hope that momentum carries over into the start of OVC play.

"It gives us confidence," said Butler, who had his first Southeast double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Norfolk State.

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