Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team visits Eastern Illinois today

Monday, January 30, 2012
KRISTIN EBERTS keberts@ (Southeast Missouri State’s Leon Powell fakes a shot during Thursday’s 56-60 win against Austin Peay at the Show Me Center.)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team is rolling while Eastern Illinois is reeling.

But senior forward Leon Powell vows that the Redhawks won't overlook the Panthers when the squads meet in Charleston, Ill., at 7 p.m. today.

Not even with Thursday's nationally televised showdown at ninth-ranked, undefeated Murray State looming.

"Don't get me wrong -- everybody wants to play Murray," Powell said. "Right now, we're thinking about Eastern Illinois."

Southeast, 11-9 overall, is 6-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play for the program's best OVC start in 12 years. The Redhawks are second in the 11-team league at the halfway point of the 16-game conference schedule. The top two finishers both earn byes into the semifinals of the eight-team OVC tournament.

The Redhawks already have surpassed their overall win total from last season and matched their OVC victory count from a year ago.

"We're pleased with where we're at, but we know there's still a long way to go," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

EIU (9-11, 2-6) has dropped its last five games to dip into 10th place in the OVC. The Panthers' losing streak began against Southeast at the Show Me Center on Jan. 14.

The Panthers were riding high with a three-game winning streak before Southeast beat them 80-73. The Redhawks built a 17-point lead in the second half and held on.

"It doesn't matter how much you beat them by here," Nutt said. "You can't base anything on comparisons. When you tip it up, it's a new game."

Especially on the road, where Southeast is just 2-7 overall and 1-2 in league play. The Redhawks have done most of their damage at home, going 5-0 in OVC games and 9-2 overall.

"It's very difficult to win on the road in college basketball," Nutt said.

Southeast will try to slow down EIU senior guard Jeremy Granger, the OVC's No. 6 scorer with an average of 15.6 points per game.

Granger burned the Redhawks for 31 points in the earlier meeting. He poured in 25 points to help rally the Panthers in the second half.

"He's a really good player and he had a great game against us the first time. We had no answer for him," Nutt said.

Today's contest marks the third leg of a rugged four-game stretch for the Redhawks that ends Thursday at Murray State.

Southeast lost 77-62 at Tennessee Tech on Jan. 21, then knocked off OVC preseason favorite Austin Peay 65-60 at home Thursday.

"We just have to keep that same intensity level," Nutt said.

EIU is coming off Saturday's 73-58 loss at Murray State, a team the Redhawks will be able to focus on once they get finished with today's contest.


* Southeast should find out its Feb. 18 BracketBuster opponent today. The Redhawks will be on the road for this year's BracketBuster event.

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