Southeast will face the top two teams in the preseason poll
The Southeast Missouri State women's basketball team hopes to climb the Ohio Valley Conference standings during a three-game homestand.
Southeast will earn what it gets in that stretch because it features contests against the squads predicted to finish first and second in the OVC.
The Redhawks begin the homestand Saturday with a 4 p.m. tipoff against defending OVC regular-season champion and preseason favorite Eastern Illinois.
Morehead State, last year's OVC runner-up and second in the preseason poll, visits the Show Me Center on Thursday. Eastern Kentucky comes to town Jan. 15.
"It's a really big homestand. You have to protect your home court," Southeast coach John Ishee said. "We're getting ready to face some of the upper echelon teams in our league, so it's going to be a difficult challenge for us."
Southeast is 5-9 overall and 1-3 in OVC play. The Redhawks have lost two straight conference games and four of their last five contests overall, including Sunday's 97-21 destruction at nationally ranked Notre Dame.
Eastern Illinois, 7-7 overall and a second-place 3-1 in the league, is led by sophomore guard Ta'Kenya Nixon.
Nixon was the first player in conference history to earn both the OVC freshman of the year and defensive player of the year awards in the same season. She also was named to the all-OVC first team.
Nixon was EIU's top scorer with a 14.5 average entering Thursday's nonconference game at SIU-Edwardsville. She also l was eading the league in assists with a 5.2 average.
Mariah King, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, is another potent scorer for the Panthers at 13.3 points per game.
"Nixon is one of the better point guards in the league, and they've got a lot of other good players around her," Ishee said. "They're a very talented team."