The one time Southeast Missouri State University played a Division II team this season, the Indians had to struggle before finally slipping past North Alabama 75-68. That stands as the Tribe's lone victory to date.
Southeast coach Gary Garner expects just as much of a battle -- if not more so -- when the Indians (1-8) play their second and final Division II opponent of the season today, facing Lincoln (5-6) at the Show Me Center.
"They're a very athletic and talented team," said Garner of the Blue Tigers from Jefferson City, Mo. "They really like to push the ball up and down the floor, they shoot a lot of 3-pointers and they score a lot of points.
"Looking at them on film, they're a better team than North Alabama. Their talent level looks really good. It's definitely going to be a really tough game for us."
While the Indians and Blue Tigers have not played each other since 1991, they used to square off regularly during Southeast's former Division II days in the old Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The Indians lead the all-time series 26-20.
Lincoln, which went 20-7 last year, appears to have another strong team this season under coach Bill Pope.
Although Lincoln currently has a losing record -- and has lost five of its last seven games -- the Blue Tigers have suffered some close losses, including four by a total of 18 points.
The Blue Tigers certainly can score -- they average 88.4 points per game and are shooting a blistering 50.7 percent from the field as a team -- but defense has evidently been a problem as Lincoln allows 85.6 points per contest and the opposition is shooting 47.1 percent from the floor.
Lincoln, which has topped the 100-point mark twice -- with a high of 126 -- features five players averaging in double figures.
Kenny Dye, a 6-foot-3 senior guard and a transfer from Nevada-Las Vegas, leads the Blue Tigers offensively at 16.3 points per game and is shooting an impressive 50.7 percent.
"Dye is really a big-time player," said Garner. "When he was in junior college he was recruited by all the top Division I programs so that shows you what kind of talent he has."
Other top scorers for the Blue Tigers are 6-4 senior swingman Mario Davis (14.6 ppg), 6-2 senior guard Teran Tease (12.7 ppg), 6-7 junior forward Jason Friday (12.2 ppg) and 6-6 junior guard Cordell Maxwell (10.4 ppg). Two more players average between seven and eight points.
Friday is shooting an incredible 69.9 percent and Davis is at 52.9 percent. Davis is Lincoln's top long-range marksman as he is hitting 49.3 percent of his 3-point attempts (36 of 73). The Blue Tigers are firing up an average of more than 20 3-pointers per game.
Southeast, which showed signs of progress during last Saturday's 92-80 loss at powerful Southern Illinois, has three players averaging in double figures, led by redshirt freshman guard Derek Winans (15.0 ppg). Then come junior forwards Tim Scheer (12.7 ppg) and Demetrius King (10.4 ppg).
"Even though we didn't win, the game with SIU was encouraging," said Garner, whose squad had a season-low seven turnovers against a strong defensive squad. "Hopefully we can build on that and continue to keep getting better."
With the start of Ohio Valley Conference play just around the corner -- the Indians have their first league game Saturday at Eastern Illinois, preceded by a contest at Western Illinois Wednesday -- Garner knows a victory today will be important to Southeast's confidence.
"It's a game we really need to get before we go back out on the road and as we get ready to start conference play," Garner said.