Struggling Tennessee-Martin to visit Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Southeast Missouri State's Marland Smith dribbles up the court against Tennessee State during the first half Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt sees potential danger lurking in today's 7 p.m. matchup at the Show Me Center.

"We better be ready," Nutt warned.

Tennessee-Martin comes to town with a 13-game losing streak and a winless Ohio Valley Conference record.

But Nutt knows the Skyhawks (3-22, 0-12) are due, and he doesn't want them breaking out against the Redhawks (12-10, 7-4), who are fourth in the 11-team OVC but just one-half game out of second place.

"They're close. I hate them coming in here without a win in conference play," Nutt said. "I promise you we have to make sure we're playing 40 minutes."

The Skyhawks had one of their better performances of the season in their most recent game when they played seventh-ranked and undefeated Murray State as well as any OVC squad before losing 65-58 on Saturday.

Nutt figures the Redhawks only have to look back to their first meeting with UTM to recognize the danger.

Southeast had to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit to post a 73-71 victory Jan. 5 in Martin, Tenn.

Senior point guard Marcus Brister's basket in the closing seconds was the game-winner, and the Redhawks survived a 3-point attempt by Mike Liabo that rimmed out at the buzzer.

"We were very fortunate to beat them over there," Nutt said. "I know they'll come here thinking they can win."

While UTM has dropped 13 straight, Southeast has a losing streak of its own. The Redhawks have suffered two consecutive defeats.

The Redhawks were dealt their first OVC home setback of the season Saturday, 75-72 by Tennessee State, after playing Murray State to the wire in an 81-73 loss last Thursday.

Southeast junior guard Marland Smith, who has scored double figures in 13 of the last 14 games, needs just nine points to reach 1,000 career points.

Smith, Southeast's No. 2 scorer with a 12.3 average, will become the first Southeast player to join the 1,000-point club since Derek Winans posted 1,505 points from 2001 through 2005.

Southeast also will regain the services of junior guard Nick Niemczyk.

Niemczyk has missed five straight contests due to lingering symptoms from a concussion. He finally was cleared to play Saturday against Tennessee State but did not get in the game.

Nutt said Niemczyk will play today.

Liabo, a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard, had 18 points in the earlier meeting with Southeast. Myles Taylor, a 6-7, 250-pound freshman forward, added 16 points.

Liabo leads the Skyhawks with a 14.9 scoring average. Taylor carries a 12.8 average.

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