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Redhawks hope to continue inside dominance against McNeese State
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team had its way inside against Lyon College Monday as the Redhawks rolled 89-61 in their home opener.
Senior guard Marland Smith doesn't believe the dominance displayed by athletic 6-foot-8, 230-pound forwards Tyler Stone and Nino Johnson was simply because they were going up against an overmatched NAIA opponent.
"That's every night," Smith said of what he believes Stone and Johnson are capable of. "We have two of the best big men in the [Ohio Valley] conference."
Stone and Johnson figure to have the opportunity to do more damage today when the Redhawks (1-1) play their second straight home game. McNeese State (1-1) visits the Show Me Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
But while the Redhawks on paper should have an inside advantage over the guard-oriented, undersized Cowboys -- whose tallest starter is 6-5 -- Southeast coach Dickey Nutt expects McNeese to be a tough foe.
"They're a good team. It'll be a battle for us," Nutt said. "It's going to be a big night for us. We'll find out quick where we're at."
Today's contest is a return from last year's ESPN BracketBusters matchup in Lake Charles, La., won by McNeese 74-61.
"We still hold that chip on our shoulder from last year," Stone said. "We're going to come out with as much energy as we can."
Stone and Johnson led an energized Southeast performance against Lyon. They combined to make 16 of 22 field-goal attempts, including eight dunks.
Stone, an all-OVC junior, scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds. He hit 10 of 13 from the floor, including five dunks. He is averaging 16.5 points so far.
"I thought Tyler played very well," Nutt said. "He let the game come to him. He didn't take any wild shots."
Johnson, an emerging sophomore, followed a solid performance in Friday's season-opening 74-55 loss at seventh-ranked Kansas with another impressive outing.
Johnson hit 6 of 9 shots and scored 14 points. He also pulled down 15 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double. He had three of Southeast's nine dunks and added two blocks and two assists.
"It's something Nino can do every night," Smith said.
Johnson reached career highs for points and rebounds, which he had set against Kansas by scoring 12 points and grabbing nine boards. He is averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds.
"It's great to see. He's going to get better and better," Nutt said.
Southeast figures to need more strong inside play from Stone and Johnson to fend off McNeese.
"They're supposed to be pretty good. They shoot it pretty well," Smith said.
McNeese went 17-16 last season, finishing tied for second in the Southland Conference East Division and tied for fourth in the league overall.
The Cowboys graduated their top player, guard Patrick Richard, the Southland player of the year who led the team with averages of 17.9 points and 6.4 rebounds. He poured in 27 points during the win over Southeast.
McNeese returns three starters, including two double-figure scorers in 6-1 senior guard Dontae Cannon (11.5 ppg) and 6-3 senior guard Jeremie Mitchell (10.8 ppg).
Desharick Guidry, a 6-5 sophomore forward who averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, hurt Southeast last year with 10 points and nine boards.
Mitchell was the Cowboys' top 3-point threat last season, hitting 74 of 208 (35.6 percent).
"They'll play three guards and they'll shoot the ball well," Nutt said.
The Cowboys opened the season with a 72-54 home win over Division III Louisiana College before being routed 73-48 at LSU Tuesday.
McNeese shot just 29.6 percent against LSU and missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts. The Cowboys were also outrebounded 50-31.
"We're a good team but just a young team," McNeese coach Dave Simmons said after the game. "We knew that coming into the season."
Kevin Hardy, a 6-2 sophomore guard, scored a career-high 18 points for the Cowboys against LSU. No other McNeese player had more than eight points.
Cannon is the Cowboys' top scorer through two games with a 14.5 average. Hardy, who averaged just 3.3 points in limited action last year, follows with a 14.0 average.
* Smith needs to shoot two more 3-pointers to break Southeast's career record in 3-point field goals attempted. Smith ranks second with 563 3-point attempts, trailing Derek Winans' 564 attempts from 2001 through 2005.
* Southeast senior guard Corey Wilford should see his initial action of the season today. Wilford was suspended for the first two games for violating unspecified team policy over the summer.
* McNeese 12th-year assistant coach David Dumars spent 11 seasons as an assistant football coach at Southeast from 1989 through 1999. He is a former CFL defensive back and the older brother of basketball Hall of Famer Joe Dumars.
* Southeast could not release any signings Wednesday because all the paperwork had not cleared but the Redhawks expect to land at least two players during the NCAA's weeklong early signing period.
Martavian Payne, a 6-2 senior combo guard at College Preparatory High School in St. Louis, and 6-4 wing Darrian Gray from Lake Land (Ill.) Community College, have verbally committed to Southeast.