Surging Southeast men hit road to face SMU

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team looks to extend its three-game winning streak tonight when it steps out of conference against a squad that also has won three straight.

Southeast is in Dallas for a 7 p.m. contest with Southern Methodist University from Conference USA.

The Redhawks are 3-10 overall and 2-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play after picking up two OVC road victories last week. SMU, 7-4 overall, has not yet started its league schedule.

"They'll be a good opponent, but our team is playing with a lot of confidence right now," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

Nutt likes the matchup because it starts a two-year series between the squads, with SMU playing at the Show Me Center next season.

"Scheduling is never easy and to have SMU coming to the Show Me Center next year is very good for us," Nutt said.

Southeast has righted the ship after starting the season with 10 straight losses, including two OVC home setbacks.

"I'm very proud of the way our guys have hung in there. They've shown a lot of character," Nutt said.

A big key for the Redhawks during their winning streak has been sophomore guard Marland Smith's resurgence after a major shooting slump.

Smith, Southeast's leading scorer last year and among the better freshmen in the OVC, was shooting 22 percent from the field, including 18 percent from 3-point range, through 10 games.

Smith is shooting 60 percent -- 59 percent from 3-point range (13 of 22) -- and averaging 21 points over the last three contests. He has been Southeast's top scorer in all three games.

"I'm very proud of the way Marland has played the last few games," Nutt said. "He's really shooting the ball well."

SMU is led by 6-foot-9, 235-pound senior forward Papa Dia and 6-8, 220-pound junior forward Robert Nyakundi.

Dia averages 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Nyakundi averages 15.8 points a contest.

The Mustangs are shooting a strong 47.6 percent from the floor, including 38.2 percent from 3-point range.

Junior guard Rodney Clinkscales is SMU's top 3-point threat at 46.9 percent (23 of 49). Nyakundi is at 40.8 percent (31 of 76) and even Dia has hit 50 percent although he has attempted just 10 from beyond the arc.

SMU is 6-2 at home but could be vulnerable. The Mustangs' two home losses were against Arkansas-Little Rock and California-Riverside.

Southeast resumes OVC play Monday against Tennessee-Martin to start a four-game conference homestand.

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