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Southeast Missouri State men's basketball begins play in OVC tournament
There is an old sports adage that it's tough to beat a team three times in one season.
Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt hopes that is the case tonight when the Redhawks make the program's first Ohio Valley Conference tournament appearance since the 2006-07 campaign.
Seventh-seeded Southeast faces sixth-seeded Eastern Kentucky in an 8 p.m. tipoff at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn.
"We're excited about being in the tournament," said Nutt, in his second season at Southeast. "We're part of March Madness, which is exciting."
EKU finished sixth in the 10-team OVC, going 15-15 overall and 9-9 in league play. Southeast (9-21, 6-12) tied for seventh to qualify for the eight-team conference tournament.
Two of the Redhawks' losses were to the Colonels, who won 64-52 on Jan. 15 in Cape Girardeau and 77-64 on Feb. 10 in Richmond, Ky. Southeast has dropped the past seven meetings against EKU.
"They're a good team, very experienced. They handled us pretty well both times," Nutt said. "But it's a brand new season. Everybody's 0-0. We're looking forward to being on a neutral court.
"Anything can happen in the tournament. We feel like we're capable of beating anybody on a given night."
The Redhawks proved that when they shocked OVC regular-season champion Murray State on Feb. 16 at the Show Me Center.
Southeast enters the tournament on a two-game losing streak while EKU has suffered four straight defeats.
The Colonels rely heavily on 3-point shooting. They have made and attempted the most 3-pointers in the OVC while ranking among the nation's most prolific teams from beyond the arc.
EKU is third in the conference in 3-point accuracy at 37.3 percent on 240 of 643.
"They play a special style. They want to backdoor you, take the 3-point shot," Nutt said. "Defensively they play a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap and cause a lot of problems. Their length bothers you."
EKU has a balanced offensive attack, with four players averaging between 10 and 14 points per game.
Senior guard Spencer Perrin leads the way at 13.4, followed by senior wing Justin Stommes (11.7), senior wing Josh Daniel (11.0) and junior guard Joshua Jones (10.6).
The 6-foot-7 Stommes is shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc to rank second in the OVC.
Daniel scored 19 points in the first meeting with Southeast. Stommes and Perrin both had 20 points in the second matchup.
Nutt believes the Redhawks made decent progress this season, especially considering they were hit hard by injury and have been down to eight available players for the past several weeks.
Southeast increased its win total by two games and its conference finish by two spots from Nutt's first Southeast team that went 7-23 last year, including 3-15 in the OVC.
"We took some baby steps this year." Nutt said. "We had a lot of things go against us but I was very proud of them for fighting through to find a way to get into the tournament. Anything can happen in the tournament."