Southeast men return to OVC action vs. UTM

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team revived its hopes of a solid Ohio Valley Conference finish with two recent road wins.

Southeast will look to start making some OVC noise at the Show Me Center when the Redhawks begin a four-game conference homestand at 8 p.m. today against Tennessee-Martin.

"Our first 14 games, we've had nine on the road," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "We certainly feel good about not having to pack our bags for a while."

Southeast is 3-11 overall and 2-2 in OVC play. The Redhawks started their league schedule by losing twice at home before going on the road to beat Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech.

The Redhawks are in a three-way tie for fifth place in the 10-team OVC. They're just one game out of first place with most of the conference season ahead.

"I told our team I don't feel like we've played good at home in two years now," said Nutt, in his second season at Southeast. "We're looking forward to being at home, but just because we're at home doesn't mean we're automatically going to win."

UTM, 4-10 overall, is 0-3 in conference play. That has the Skyhawks tied for last place with Jacksonville State.

The Skyhawks finished last in the OVC a year ago when they went 4-25 overall and 1-17 in the league.

But that one conference victory came against Southeast, which finished just ahead of UTM in ninth place. The squads split their two meetings last year.

Southeast and UTM, both in rebuilding phases, were picked to finish where they wound up 2009-10 during this year's OVC preseason poll.

"I'm sure they're coming in here feeling like they can win," Nutt said.

While the Redhawks have won three of their last four after an 0-10 start, the Skyhawks enter with a three-game losing streak. They have dropped 10 of 12 after a 2-0 start.

UTM's three recent losses were against powers Murray State, Ohio State and Tennessee. The Skyhawks also have nonconference losses at Memphis and LSU.

The Skyhawks already have matched their win total from last season, and Nutt considers them improved.

"They're a good team. They've played a tough schedule, like we have," Nutt said.

Senior guard Reuben Clayton leads a balanced UTM attack with an average of 12.6 points per game. Senior forward Benzor Simmons is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high six rebounds.

The Redhawks will continue OVC play Saturday when they host Eastern Illinois. They then will play Morehead State on Jan. 13 and Eastern Kentucky on Jan. 15 to close out the homestand.