Southeast men counter slow start with OVC win streak

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Southeast men will look for their fourth straight conference win Saturday against Eastern Illinois

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team lacked confidence during the first several weeks of the season.

That's not surprising considering the Redhawks' 0-10 start.

"It's hard to feel good about yourself when you're 0-10," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

But the Redhawks aren't lacking confidence these days, thanks to a three-game Ohio Valley Conference winning streak entering Saturday's 6 p.m. contest against Eastern Illinois.

The doubleheader at the Show Me Center that includes a 4 p.m. women's game is billed as White Out Night, with fans encouraged to wear white.

"Right now our team is feeling better and better," Nutt said. "I think we're playing with a lot of confidence."

The Redhawks began a four-game OVC homestand with Monday's 82-75 victory over Tennessee-Martin that put the Redhawks (4-11, 3-2) above .500 in conference play.

Southeast started the 2007-08 season 6-0 in the OVC but later had to vacate those wins due to NCAA violations committed under a previous coaching staff.

So officially the Redhawks have their first three-game conference winning streak since 2006-07 and are above the .500 mark in league play for the first time since 2004-05.

Southeast has moved into a tie for third place in the 10-team OVC with most of the conference season still left.

"We are excited to be above .500 in conference play," Nutt said. "But we instill in our players one game at a time, one possession at a time.

"Don't worry about the record. There are a lot of games to be played."

Nutt liked the way the Redhawks opened their homestand. Junior forward Leon Powell scored a career-high 36 points and redshirt freshman point guard Lucas Nutt added a career-high 22 points in the win Monday.

Powell's total is the highest by an OVC player this season.

"It was a super win," coach Nutt said. "The good thing about when you win, it's easier to stay in their face at practice."

Powell credited three rugged days of practice for the win over Tennessee-Martin and said the Redhawks plan to keep that up.

"We need to practice that way," Powell said. "We're definitely better than what our record shows. When everybody plays their best, we're hard to beat."

Eastern Illinois (6-8, 2-2), just a half-game behind the Redhawks, was picked to finish third in the OVC while Southeast was tabbed for ninth.

EIU missing top scorer

The Panthers continue to be without senior guard Tyler Laser, their top scorer last season who had been the OVC leader in minutes played this year. He is sidelined indefinitely with back problems.

Southeast has injury problems of its own but has been playing its best basketball of the season since being shorthanded. Nutt expects the same from EIU.

"I think they're very talented," Nutt said. "They can all shoot the ball. They're hard to guard."

Junior guard Jeremy Granger leads the Panthers with a 12.3 scoring average. EIU hangs its hat on defense, leading the league in field-goal percentage allowed (41.2 percent).

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