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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 8:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Chaifetz Arena (10,600) -- St. Louis, Missouri. Television: None. Home Record: SEMO 0-0, SLU 0-0. Away Record: SEMO 0-0, SLU 0-0. Neutral Record: SEMO 0-0, SLU 0-0. Conference Record: SEMO 0-0, SLU 0-0. Series Record: Saint Louis leads, 8-4.
GAME NOTES: The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks will attempt to down an in- state rival to start their 2013-14 season as they clash with the Saint Louis Billikens at Chaifetz Arena.
The Redhawks have steadily improved each year under coach Dickey Nutt, who inherited a team that went 3-27 overall and 0-18 in conference play in 2008-09, the season before he arrived in Cape Girardeau. SEMO fans have to be pleased with the job Nutt has done as his squad ended last season with a 17-16 overall record and a .500 mark versus OVC foes. The improved Redhawks were one of the most exciting teams in their conference as they ranked second in scoring offense with 74.5 ppg and hit on 46.9 percent of their field goal attempts.
Coach Jim Crews did a terrific job on an interim basis after taking over the helm of the program due to the health issues of Rick Majerus, who passed away during the regular season after leaving the program just before the start of the schedule. Saint Louis followed up a 26-win campaign in 2011-12 with a school-record 28 wins last season as well as their highest national ranking since 1965. Crews was hired to fill the shoes of the late Majerus and his second season with the team looks to be promising as three starters and a handful of important reserves are back from last year's Atlantic 10 conference championship squad.
Saint Louis leads the all-time series 8-4. The Billikens defeated the Redhawks 59-41 in the last outing Nov. 14, 2009. SEMO's last victory in the series was a 65-49 win at Scottrade Center on Dec. 29, 2004.
The Redhawks rallied around Missouri transfer Tyler Stone last season in his second year at the school. Although the 6-7 forward rarely saw the floor with the Tigers, it was hard to tell as he instantly became the offensive leader at SEMO. He is only 32 points shy of the 1,000-point milestone after only two seasons. Junior forward Nino Johnson (11.1 ppg, 8.8. rpg) is an asset both as a scorer and a rebounder, while A.J. Jones (8.6 ppg) is the top returner to the backcourt. SEMO will need a spot-up shooter to emerge to fill the shoes of departed seniors Corey Wilford and Marland Smith, as Jones and Lucas Nutt have yet to prove themselves as legitimate threats from long range.
Senior forward Dwayne Evans, an Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year candidate, led the Billikens in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg) a season ago. In SLU's five postseason games, Evans stepped up his play to net 21.0 ppg. The Billikens also return the senior guard tandem of Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. A two-time A-10 All-Defensive pick, Jett has 123 career steals and needs two more to crack SLU's all-time top 10 list. McCall Jr. led the team with 46 steals last year and was second in assists. The 6-foot-11 Rob Loe has adopted a European style of play for big man, which forces opposing centers to drift out of their comfort zone to prevent him from sinking 3-point attempts.
The Redhawks are certainly a contender to win the OVC this season after being noticeably weaker than Murray State and Belmont over the past two years. However, SEMO is not going to match up well with the Billikens, who were one of the toughest teams on their own floor in the nation.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Louis 74, Southeast Missouri State 62
11/08 10:42:40 ET
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