The Southeast men have mounting injury problems as they visit their regional rival
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team enters one of its regional rivalry games tonight winless and banged up.
Southeast coach Dickey Nutt hopes the Redhawks can fight through their situation when they face Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in a 7:05 p.m. tipoff at newly-renovated SIU Arena.
The Redhawks are 0-9 for the program's worst start since moving up to the Division I level with the 1991-92 season. They entered the week among just nine Division I squads still searching for a victory.
Southeast, which dropped its last eight contests a year ago, takes a 17-game losing streak to Carbondale, Ill.,
"We're just going to keep our heads held high and keep working," Nutt said. "We just want to keep improving. I think we are."
Nutt came away encouraged with what he saw during Monday's 85-58 loss at Iowa State.
"You hate losing, but I was really proud of the effort, the way our guys fought and hung in there," said Nutt, whose squad will be playing its fourth game in seven days. "I really believe that we came away with a little bit of confidence, as strange as it sounds."
The Redhawks are shorthanded, and Nutt doesn't think that will change any time soon.
Junior college transfer guard Nick Niemczyk has not played the past three games as the knee he had surgery on in April continues to bother him.
Nutt fears Niemczyk, second on the Redhawks in scoring with a 13.4 average while also being their top 3-point shooter, is done for the season. If that is the case, Southeast will try to get him a medical redshirt.
Senior forward Cameron Butler, who has played in just two games, will miss several more weeks with foot problems.
"This is the team we have right now," said Nutt, whose club currently has only nine available players. "I think our team understands that Nick is probably done for this season and Cameron will be out for a while."
Southeast figures to have a difficult time breaking into the win column against perennial mid-major power SIU, although the Salukis have fallen on somewhat hard times recently.
SIU had a run of six straight NCAA tournament appearances end with an NIT berth during the 2007-08 season.
The past two years have not included any postseason play for the Salukis. They dipped to 13-18 in 2008-09 and went 15-15 last season, when they finished ninth in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference.
"They've had a great program over the years, one of the best mid-major programs in the country," Nutt said. "They're still very good."
SIU is off to a 4-4 start under seventh-year coach Chris Lowery, a former Southeast assistant. The Salukis have not yet played an MVC contest.
Two of SIU's losses were to nationally ranked Purdue and Illinois. The Salukis have also been beaten by a strong New Mexico squad and fell to Northeastern in overtime.
"They'll be a very tough opponent in a very tough place to play," Nutt said.
The Salukis have received balanced scoring so far, with five players averaging between 7.5 and 10.1 points per game. Nine players are averaging at least 15.6 minutes a contest.
Gene Teague, 6-foot-9, 290-pound sophomore center who made the MVC all-freshmen team last year, leads the way with averages of 10.1 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field.
Carlton Fay, 6-8, 225-pound senior forward and three-year starter, is averaging 10 points.
SIU has struggled with its outside shooting so far, making just 26.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Salukis have been strong on the boards with a rebounding advantage of 38.1 to 30.3 per game.
SIU leads the longest series in Southeast history 68-44 but last year marked the first meeting between the squads since the 2004-05 season.
The Salukis have won 12 of the past 13 meetings, including last year's 86-65 romp at the Show Me Center that featured their fifth straight victory over Southeast.
Southeast's most recent win in the series was 87-84 during the 2000-01 season when Lowery was a Southeast assistant.
"It'll be a big challenge for us," Nutt said.