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Southeast men welcome OVC's clunker
Southeast's next foe hasn't beaten a D-I team this season
The Tennessee-Martin men's basketball team has not beaten a Division I squad this season.
Southeast Missouri State will try to make sure it doesn't happen tonight when the Redhawks look to break a three-game losing streak.
Southeast (5-12, 2-5 Ohio Valley Conference) and UTM (2-14, 0-7) square off in a 7:45 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center.
The Redhawks then close out their two-game homestand Saturday night when powerful Murray State (16-3, 8-0) visits.
Southeast is tied for seventh in the 10-team OVC, with UTM occupying the basement and Murray State in first place.
"It's nice to be back at home again," junior guard Sam Pearson said. "We need to get it going."
The Redhawks failed to get it going on the road recently, suffering three lopsided losses in a span of eight days to some of the OVC's top clubs. The closest defeat was 16 points, with the most lopsided setback 40 points.
"It was a tough stretch of games for us against some very good teams, but we're really glad to be back home again," said first-year Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad has played five of its first seven OVC games on the road. "We want to get off that losing streak."
While Southeast had a tough stretch, UTM is having a tough season just one year after winning its first OVC regular-season title.
But that was with All-American Lester Hudson, the nation's second-leading scorer, paving the way. UTM has found the going rough without Hudson, who now plays in the NBA.
The Skyhawks' only wins have come over non-Division I programs Harris-Stowe and Westminster. UTM is riding a five-game losing streak.
Nutt, however, points out that the rebuilding Redhawks can't afford to take anybody lightly. It was only last year that they endured a winless OVC season and went 3-27 overall.
"I would be shocked if our guys think they could overlook anybody in Division I basketball," Nutt said.
Despite ranking at or toward the bottom in most of the OVC's major team statistical categories, UTM has two especially dangerous players in 6-foot-5 junior forward Benzor Simmons and 6-1 junior guard Marquis Weddle.
Simmons ranks third in the OVC in scoring and rebounding with averages of 15.9 points and 6.6 boards per game.
Weddle, a former OVC freshman of the year and a preseason all-conference pick, is averaging a team-leading 16.5 points in six games since becoming academically eligible. He has not yet seen enough action to be listed among the OVC's scoring leaders.
"They're down at the bottom [statistically], but so are we," Nutt said. "In conference play, you can throw a lot of those stats out the door. It's who comes out and plays the hardest.
"They're one of the teams that scares you the most. They're very much like us, trying to regroup and reload. They've been very competitive in a lot of games. Those two players [Simmons and Weddle] are a big concern for us."
Nutt said Southeast will play a third straight game without junior forward Cameron Butler. The Redhawks' No. 2 scorer and rebounder has a foot injury that could sideline him for several more contests.
Pearson also is hobbled by a foot injury that has forced him to miss practice time, but he continues to play and will be on the court tonight.
After facing UTM, Southeast will take on perennial OVC power Murray State, which has rolled through the conference so far.
"Everybody knows about the kind of program they have," Nutt said. "They're very good, super athletic and talented."