Game against powerful Racers is lurking

Monday, December 31, 2012

Coaches are notorious for never looking ahead and always preaching the "one game at a time" mentality.

I don't have to be that way, which is why my eyes already are on Saturday's early Ohio Valley Conference West Division men's basketball showdown at the Show Me Center.

Southeast Missouri State, picked to finish second in the OVC West, welcomes three-time OVC regular-season champion and preseason favorite Murray State for a 5 p.m. game that will be nationally televised by ESPNU.

I've been licking my chops about that one for a while.

The last time these two regional rivals hooked up, on Feb. 16, an announced 7,125 fans jammed into the Show Me Center, which lists a capacity of 7,000.

It was just the fifth sellout for a Southeast men's basketball game at the 25-year-old facility. The previous sellout came during Southeast's 1999-2000 NCAA tournament season when a record crowd of 7,241 saw the then-Indians and Racers square off.

That matchup late last season was a sight to behold. MSU spoiled the party with a 75-66 victory, but that in no way detracted from what was the best and most electric atmosphere for a Southeast basketball game in Cape Girardeau in more than a decade.

There probably won't be a sellout this time, since Southeast students are on winter break, but I do expect a big crowd for a contest pitting two teams with high aspirations.

MSU, led by incomparable All-American senior guard Isaiah Canaan, is off to another impressive start at 9-3 -- although the Racers have lost two straight -- after being nationally ranked much of last season. They open OVC play Thursday at Tennessee-Martin.

Southeast, continuing the program's resurgence under fourth-year coach Dickey Nutt, also is off to a solid start at 9-6.

The Redhawks are riding a three-game winning streak that includes Saturday's much-closer-than-expected 65-60 home victory over Tennessee-Martin in their OVC opener.

Southeast hosts another OVC opponent, Austin Peay, Thursday night before the showdown with the Racers, so the Redhawks' current focus has to be on the Governors.

That doesn't mean my focus has to be trained on Austin Peay. I'm looking forward to Saturday.

Murray State has dominated the series against Southeast, leading 46-18. That includes winning 10 of the last 11 meetings.

The Racers beat Southeast in both matchups a year ago, including 81-73 in Murray, Ky. That ESPNU televised thriller featured the Redhawks leading by 11 points early in the second half before MSU stormed from behind.

Canaan took over, scoring 24 of his 32 points in the final period. He had just nine points during the sold-out rematch in Cape Girardeau, but the Racers still won going away.

Southeast's most recent victory over the Racers was a 64-57 home decision during the 2010-11 season.

Another Southeast Missourian Christmas tournament is in the books following Sunday's finals at the Show Me Center.

This year's 68th edition of the 16-team boys basketball event went according to form at the top.

Top-seeded and overwhelming favorite Charleston captured its second straight title and record 17th overall, beating second-seeded Central 62-42 in the championship game.

The defending Class 3 state champion Bluejays, as expected, didn't have much trouble, their closest game being an 18-point semifinal decision over Jackson. Charleston's other two wins were by 83 and 27 points.

As usual, a vast majority of the games were massive blowouts, especially over the first two days.

But that never detracts from the enjoyment I get covering the event, which is always as much about seeing people and catching up on old times as it is watching hoops.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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