FACTS & STATS: Site: Show Me Center (6,972) -- Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Television: None. Home Record: UTM 3-2, SEMO 4-1. Away Record: UTM 0-7, SEMO 3-3. Neutral Record: UTM 0-0, SEMO 1-2. Conference Record: UTM 0-0, SEMO 0-0. Series Record: Southeast Missouri State leads, 42-26.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio Valley Conference schedule kicks off for the Tennessee- Martin Skyhawks and the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, as the two teams clash on Saturday afternoon at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
UTM hasn't achieved much in the way of success through its first dozen games, recording a mere three wins, with only one of those coming against a Division I opponent (Dec. 1 versus Kennesaw State, 65-63). The Skyhawks are currently losers of six of seven and four in a row, most recently falling at home to Samford, 75-62.
On the contrary, SEMO's campaign has shown a lot of promise, as it sits above .500 heading into conference play. The Redhawks are winners of five of their last seven contests, which includes back-to-back wins over New Orleans (94-71) and UMKC (66-65). They have defended their home court well, with their only loss in five tries there coming on Dec. 8 versus Central Arkansas, 88-85.
SEMO has a 42-26 advantage in the all-time series with UTM, which includes a three-game win streak over the Skyhawks at the Show Me Center.
It's easy to see why UTM's season has been such a disappointment so far, considering it shoots less than 40 percent from the field while sporting a minus-7.7 scoring margin and committing 16.2 turnovers per contest. The Skyhawks reached new lows in their latest setback, as they suffered a 13-point home loss to a three-win Samford squad. Mike Liabo did his best to keep his squad in the game, coming off the bench to score 23 points, draining 5-of-12 from 3-point range in the process. Myles Taylor added 11 points and eight rebounds in defeat. UTM hasn't had much continuity in the starting lineup, as 12 different players have seen action to open a game. Taylor is the only player to start all 12 tilts, and for good reason, considering he leads the team in both scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg). Liabo has been spotty from the floor (.371) on his way to 14.0 ppg, and Justin Childs chips in with 10.6 ppg.
SEMO led its bout with UMKC by as many as 11 points in the second half only to let that advantage slip away down the stretch, but down by one in the final minute, Tyler Stone drained what proved to be a pair of game-winning free throws as the Redhawks escaped with the one-point victory. Stone was fantastic throughout, connecting on 10-of-17 from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line on his way to 28 points, while adding nine rebounds and two blocks for good measure. Corey Wilford was also impressive, tallying 15 points, six assists and six rebounds. The Redhawks have been largely impressive at both ends of the floor, outshooting their opponents by a wide margin (.463 to .368). Stone is making an early run at OVC Player of the Year honors, putting up 17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg and 0.9 spg while shooting 48.8 percent from the field. Wilford (14.3 ppg) shoots a lofty 45.5 percent from 3-point range, and Nino Johnson (11.9 ppg) is a physical presence in the paint with 9.8 rpg and 2.8 bpg.
UTM has done nothing to prove it can compete with quality teams through the first few weeks of the season, especially on the road. Considering how well SEMO has been playing of late, this one could get out of hand early.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SE Missouri State 76, Tenn-Martin 58
12/29 10:37:55 ET
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