SE men to learn tourney lesson

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball is gearing up for a serious workout in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Southeast has three games scheduled over the next three days as part of the CBE Classic.

The Redhawks (2-1) face host Chattanooga (1-1) at 2 p.m. today, Louisiana Tech (1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Monday and Troy (1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"It's a great learning tool for us. We'll treat it just like a tournament, which it is," said Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad plays seven of its next eight contests away from Cape Girardeau. "It will be a good experience for us, to go on the road and play these games."

Senior guard Marland Smith said the Redhawks can use the CBE Classic as possible preparation for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, where depending on seedings a team can play as many as four straight days.

"It's like getting ready for the OVC tournament, play back to back to back, get in that rhythm," Smith said. "It's going to be a great experience, see where we're at. We want to come out victorious."

Southeast has bounced back with two straight lopsided home wins after opening the season with a competitive 74-55 loss at seventh-ranked Kansas.

The Redhawks rolled past NAIA Lyon College 89-61 Monday and McNeese State 64-53 Thursday, avenging last season's 13-point loss at McNeese.

"Winning that game was big, with all the road games we've got coming up," Nutt said. "I didn't tell the team, but that was a must-win for us."

Southeast will be tested in Chattanooga but also should match up well with three opponents who went a combined 39-55 last year.

"It doesn't matter who you're playing, you've got your hands full on the road," Nutt said.

Chattanooga opened the season with an 88-53 rout of Tennessee-Temple, which is affiliated with the National Christian College Athletic Association, then led Kansas by 12 points early in the second half before losing 69-55.

The Mocs have had a strong recent tradition, making NCAA tournament appearances in 2009 and 2011. But they struggled last year, going 11-21 and 5-13 in the Southern Conference.

Chattanooga returned just one starter from a year ago, 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior forward Drazen Zlovaric. He averaged 10.2 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds while leading the Mocs in field-goal shooting at 54.9 percent.

The Mocs returned eight other letterwinners, including three who averaged at least five points.

Zlovaric has scored 21 points in the Mocs' first two games.

Chattanooga's top scorers so far are 6-5, 238-pound junior forward Z. Mason and 6-foot freshman guard Farad Cobb with 29 points apiece. Cobb hit 7 of 9 3-pointers against Kansas.

"Historically they've been very good. They just gave Kansas a great game," Nutt said. "They're very good at home.

Louisiana Tech opened its season with a 71-59 loss at Texas A&M before beating Arkansas-Little Rock 70-52.

The Bulldogs went 18-16 and 6-8 in the Western Athletic Conference a year ago. They returned four starters, including three of their top four scorers.

Tech is led by 6-3 sophomore guard Raheem Appleby, last season's WAC freshman of the year and a second-team all-WAC selection.

Appleby averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game while also pacing the Bulldogs in 3-point shooting at 40 percent, the highest by a freshman in school history. His 446 points were the third-most by a Tech freshman.

Appleby is off to a strong start, scoring 27 points in Tech's first two games.

Cordarius Johnson, a 6-5 junior guard, also has 27 points so far. Brandon Gibson, a 6-5 senior guard, has 23 points.

Gibson averaged 9.6 points last year, third-best on the squad, while Johnson was fourth at 7.7.

"They had a good season last year and I look for them to be strong," Nutt said.

Troy tipped off its season with a bang, upsetting Mississippi State 56-53 at home. The Trojans then lost 83-65 at Texas A&M.

The Trojans went 10-18 and 5-11 in the Sun Belt Conference last season. They lost their top two scorers but returned three starters.

Two junior college transfers have paced the Trojans so far.

Hunter Williams, a 6-foot junior guard, scored 25 points in the first two games. He hit 7 of 13 3-pointers.

Tevin Calhoun, a 6-7 junior forward, totaled 20 points in the opening two contests while making 6 of 14 from beyond the arc.

"Troy plays all zone, which is a challenge," Nutt said. "We've got our hands full in this tournament."

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