Southeast Missouri State coach Ty Margenthaler was excited before the season when the Redhawks lined up games against all four of the state's other Division I women's basketball programs.
The Redhawks (5-6) have lost the first two legs of those matchups, both on the road. Today they get another crack at it when tradition-rich Missouri State (6-4) visits the Show Me Center for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.
"It's another great challenge for us but we're looking forward to it," said Margenthaler, whose squad is 3-0 at home this season.
Southeast was beaten 69-64 at Missouri-Kansas City on Nov. 12 and 80-51 at Missouri on Nov. 29. The Redhawks host Saint Louis University on Jan. 9.
The Redhawks are scheduled to play all four state schools again next season. Margenthaler hopes games against those opponents can continue for years to come.
"That's our goal. I think it's great for travel, it's great for recruiting, it's great for our fans. I think it's a really good thing for all the teams involved," Margenthaler said. "We're trying to build as much interest in our program as we can. I think this helps. We'll play anybody anywhere."
Missouri State has made 13 NCAA tournament appearances, won 26 conference championships and earned two Final Four berths, in 1991-92 and 2000-01. The Bears also captured the 2005 WNIT.
The Bears are coming off a 2011-12 season that saw them go 24-9, win the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and reach the third round of the WNIT.
"To get a national caliber team like Missouri State to come into the Show Me Center is something special," Margenthaler said.
MSU returned three starters from a year ago, including second-leading scorer Christiana Shorter at 11.6 points per game. She paced the Bears with 6.8 rebounds per contest.
Shorter has earned second-team all-MVC honors the past two seasons after being the league's freshman of the year in 2009-10.
"She's a great player," Margenthaler said.
The offensive-minded Bears, averaging 71.2 points, feature four double-figure scorers led by Shorter. The 6-foot-1 senior forward is averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 boards as the Bears have a rebounding margin of nearly plus-five per contest.
Whitney Edie, a 6-1 senior forward, is averaging 13.1 points and team-high 9.1 rebounds.
Also scoring in double figures for MSU are 5-10 redshirt freshman guard Kenzie Williams (10.9 ppg) and 5-7 junior guard Hannah Wilkerson (10.6 ppg).
"They're awfully good. They'll be one of the best teams we play this year," Margenthaler said.
Southeast and MSU last met during the 2009-10 season, the Bears romping 72-46 in Springfield. The Redhawks beat MSU the previous year in Cape Girardeau 67-64.
"I think it's great to get the series going again," Margenthaler said.
Today marks the Redhawks' final tuneup before they open Ohio Valley Conference play Dec. 31 at Belmont.
"To go up against the caliber of teams we've been facing, it can only help us going into conference play," Margenthaler said.