Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team to host traditionally strong Austin Peay

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Austin Peay men's basketball team is struggling these days.

But Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt emphasizes that the Governors are among the most tradition-rich programs in Ohio Valley Conference history.

Nutt knows the Redhawks will have to be on top of their game today when Austin Peay visits the Show Me Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Southeast is 9-6 overall and 1-0 in OVC play after rallying past visiting Tennessee-Martin 65-60 in Saturday's conference opener. The Redhawks are riding their third three-game winning streak of the season.

"Now we need to get over that hump," said Nutt, referring to a longer victory streak.

Austin Peay, which will be playing its league opener today, is 4-10. The Govs have suffered six consecutive defeats and have beaten only two Division I teams this season. They are winless in true road games.

The Govs slumped to 12-20 last year -- ending a string of nine consecutive winning seasons -- but did go 8-8 in the OVC, marking the 19th straight campaign they have been at least .500 in conference play.

Austin Peay's Dave Loos, in his 23rd season, is the winningest coach in OVC history.

Loos has led the Govs to five OVC regular-season championships and three OVC tournament titles, most recently in 2007-08 when they captured both crowns. He is the only person to earn the league's coach of the year award five times.

"You look at Dave Loos' record. ... they've got one of the most tradition programs in the OVC, along with Murray State," Nutt said.

Southeast hasn't had much success against Austin Peay over the years, dropping 13 of the past 15 meetings. The Redhawks snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 65-60 home win last season. The Govs won the rematch in Clarksville, Tenn., 68-59.

Saturday's closer-than-expected victory over Tennessee-Martin -- which went winless in OVC play last year and is expected to again occupy the basement this season -- should serve as a lesson for the Redhawks.

Southeast trailed 21-6 midway through the first half and, after the Redhawks rallied to go ahead, the Skyhawks pulled into a 56-56 tie with under five minutes left.

The Redhawks finally survived by outscoring the Skyhawks 9-4 over the final 4 minutes, 7 seconds.

"It's conference basketball. You can throw out the records. Anybody can beat you," Nutt said. "We've got to get a lot more consistent, play a lot harder."

Austin Peay has struggled defensively, allowing an average of 75.1 points per game as opponents are shooting 45.4 percent from the field. They rank last in the OVC in turnover margin at minus 4.14, having committed a league-high 17.4 turnovers per game.

But the Govs have been strong offensively, averaging 71.1 points and shooting 45.7 percent, including an OVC-best 41 percent from 3-point range. They also lead the conference with 75 blocked shots.

Junior college transfer guard Travis Betran leads the Govs with an average of 15.9 points per game. He tops the OVC in 3-point shooting at 48.1 percent (39 of 81).

Senior forward Anthony Campbell, who has bounced back from several severe knee injuries during his college career, is averaging 15.1 points and shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc (32 of 79).

Chris Horton, a 6-foot-8 freshman center, is having an impressive rookie season with averages of 8.7 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds. He leads the OVC with 42 blocks, just ahead of Southeast sophomore forward Nino Johnson's 41.

Austin Peay is picked to finish third in the OVC West Division, just behind Southeast.

"They've got some really good players," Nutt said. "They'll be a tough opponent for us. They've always got a good team."

Southeast is no doubt licking its chops for Saturday's 5 p.m. home showdown against three-time defending OVC regular-season champion and West Division favorite Murray State that will be televised nationally by ESPNU.

Junior forward Tyler Stone, averaging 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds to rank third in the league in both categories, said looking ahead won't be a problem.

"We'll just focus on Austin Peay, then we'll worry about Murray State," Stone said. "Austin Peay always has a good team. We underestimate nobody. If we keep our focus on the things we do, we'll be all right."

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