Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team set to jockey for OVC tournament position

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Southeast Missouri State senior Anthony Allison takes a shot during Saturday's game. (Laura Simon)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team begins its final week of the regular season with today's 7:30 p.m. game at Tennessee State.

But it might not be the last time the Redhawks and Tigers square off in Nashville, Tenn., this year.

There is a decent chance Southeast and TSU will meet Wednesday in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

"We're excited to play them," redshirt freshman point guard Lucas Nutt said. "Tennessee State may be the team we play [in the OVC tournament]. It'll be good to get a taste of how we match up with them."

The squads already have played once this season. The Tigers won 77-67 on Dec. 4 at the Show Me Center.

Southeast Missouri State coach talks with his team during a timeout Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Laura Simon)

"It's been a long time since we played them," Nutt said.

Southeast (9-19, 6-10), which has clinched a berth in the eight-team OVC tournament for the first time since the 2006-07 season, is seventh in the 10-team league. TSU (12-15, 8-8) is sixth.

Under this year's new format, the entire tournament is played at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium, with the top two seeds receiving double byes into the semifinals and the next two seeds gaining first-round byes.

The bottom four seeds play in Wednesday's first round, with the fifth seed against the eighth seed and the sixth seed against the seventh seed.

If Southeast and TSU either hold their current positions or swap positions, they would meet in the opening round. But things still could change. The Redhawks' other possible opening-round opponent is fifth-place Eastern Kentucky, which swept the season series from Southeast.

Regardless, the Redhawks hope to finish the regular season strong to gain momentum for the tournament.

Southeast, which has won four of its last six games, ends the campaign Saturday at third-place Austin Peay (17-12, 11-5). The Govs beat the Redhawks 78-60 on Dec. 2 in Cape Girardeau.

"I feel like we've played well the past few weeks," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "We're playing our best basketball of the season and we want to keep that going. We're a different team now than when we played Tennessee State last time, but they're good."

TSU features a balanced offense led by junior forward Kenny Moore (14.8 points per game) and sophomore forward Robert Covington (13.2).

The 6-foot-9 Covington, among the OVC's most versatile players, is the league's 10th-leading scorer. He also ranks third in rebounding (7.5), eighth in field-goal percentage (50.2), second in 3-point field-goal percentage (43.8), eighth in blocks (1.0) and 11th in steals (1.4).

TSU is 9-2 at home, with just one OVC loss at the Gentry Center.

"They're very good at home. They're a very athletic team. Their length gives us problems," coach Nutt said. "They like to get up and down the floor. We've got to slow them down."

Women at TSU

Southeast's women could clinch an OVC tournament berth today when they play at Tennessee State in a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.

But the Redhawks, who have dropped four straight, are in serious danger of missing the tournament for the second straight year.

Southeast and TSU both are 8-19 overall and 4-12 in OVC play. They are part of a three-way tie for seventh place.

A win by the Redhawks, who beat TSU 51-46 on Dec. 4 at the Show Me Center, nails down a tournament berth.

If the Redhawks lose, they must win Saturday's regular-season finale at fourth-place Austin Peay (12-15, 11-5) while receiving help from elsewhere around the OVC.

Austin Peay beat Southeast 65-57 on Dec. 2 in Cape Girardeau.

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