Nutt preaches need for better defensive play from Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team

Friday, December 2, 2011
Southeast Missouri State's Nino Johnson shoots over Miami of Ohio's Jon Harris during the first half Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt knows the Redhawks must improve defensively to achieve the level of success he thinks the team can attain.

The Redhawks' defense has been one of their glaring sore spots so far this year, and it was exemplified Tuesday when host Arkansas State shot 55.1 percent from the field to rout the Redhawks 79-63.

Nutt already emphasizes defense during practice, but he took it a step further heading into Saturday's game against Southeastern Louisiana.

Southeast (3-4) and the Lions (4-2) will square off at 7:30 p.m. at the Show Me Center.

"We've got some offensive-minded players that need to zero in and take more of an interest in defense," Nutt said. "Right now we're kind of picking our poison. Some of our best offensive players are not very good defensively.

"We're going to work at it. We've shown we can do it."

Nutt had his players go through much of Thursday's practice in helmets and shoulder pads borrowed from Southeast's football team in an effort to not only get tougher on defense but to get tougher in general.

"I know football is a tough sport," Nutt said. "Hopefully this will help us get tougher."

Ohio Valley Conference play hasn't started yet and the strength of schedule that OVC squads have faced varies, but Southeast ranks ninth in the 11-team league in scoring defense (71 points per game), eighth in field-goal percentage defense (46.5) and last in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (41.3).

Southeast only has held an opponent to less than 46-percent shooting twice this season, and one of those instances was against NAIA Harris-Stowe. Even NAIA Hannibal-LaGrange blistered the Redhawks for 55.1 percent.

The Redhawks seemed to be turning the corner Saturday when they held a strong Miami of Ohio squad to 37.7 percent during an upset victory.

But Southeast took a step back defensively Tuesday when Arkansas State seemingly took open shots most of the night.

"We looked at that tape. We were not as bad as we thought [defensively]," Nutt said. "They hit some tough shots. A few teams have hit shots on us."

Southeast has been solid offensively, ranking third in the OVC with 71.1 points per game and leading the league in field-goal percentage at 49.5.

"We'll be fine. We just need to get our defense right," Southeast sophomore point guard Lucas Nutt said.

The Redhawks hope to get back to the .500 mark against Southeastern Louisiana after having their two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday.

That doesn't figure to be easy. The Lions are off to a strong start after going 15-14 overall and 9-7 in the Southland Conference last season.

Brandon Fortenberry, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, leads the Lions with 18.2 points per game, which ranks second in the Southland Conference. He is shooting 43.2 percent from 3-point range (16 of 37).

Roosevelt Johnson, a 6-6 junior forward, is averaging 12.2 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds.

Southeastern Louisiana has posted winning records in five of six seasons under coach Jim Yarbrough.

"They just beat Louisiana Tech in overtime [Wednesday]," coach Nutt said. "They've got some really good guards. I think they'll be one of the best teams we play."

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