Garner focused on keeping Indians upbeat after losses

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Keeping his team positive despite a recent slide will be Southeast Missouri State University coach Gary Garner's primary focus in practice this week as the Indians prepare for two Ohio Valley Conference home games.

The Indians have played solid basketball over the past couple of weeks, but all they have to show for it is a win and three losses.

"That's a big concern," Garner said during his weekly media conference Monday. "Where do you start losing your confidence and dropping your head? I hope we have the kind of young men that won't, and I think we do.

"If you come to the practice floor with your head down, it's hard to have a good practice. The more you win, the better your practices are. The more you lose, the worse your practices are."

Southeast is 7-11 overall and 2-4 in the OVC following Saturday's 62-49 loss at Austin Peay. The Indians, who had played well offensively the previous several games, shot just 29.8 percent from the field but stayed in the contest until the final minutes.

"After watching tape, we got a lot of good shots," Garner said. "They are a good defensive team, but we got good shots. We just didn't make them. When you're on the road, you have to make shots."

Interior defense also continued to plague the Indians as Austin Peay center Josh Lewis scored 23 points and hit nine of 10 shots, most of them from right around the basket. Lewis almost singlehandedly broke the game open late by scoring 10 straight points.

"We have to get better on our interior defense," Garner said. "Our biggest weakness of our whole team is interior defense."

Tennessee State next

Struggling Tennessee State comes to the Show Me Center Thursday for a 7 p.m. game, followed by two-time defending OVC regular-season champion Tennessee Tech's visit to Cape Girardeau at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tennessee State entered Monday's game with Murray State at 2-14 overall and a last-place 0-5 in the OVC.

The Tigers, who carried a 10-game losing streak into Monday's contest, have been reeling since the recent resignation of head coach Nolan Richardson III after he was accused of bringing a gun onto campus following an argument with assistant coach Hosea Lewis. Lewis has taken over as interim coach.

Tennessee State is also the target of an NCAA investigation into possible rules infractions.

Still, Garner says the Tigers are much better than their record indicates.

"Tennessee State is scary," Garner said. "Boy, their players are pretty good basketball players. They lost their coach, their leader, and they're not playing well. But I predict before the season is over they will pull two or three upsets."

Garner just hopes that doesn't happen Thursday since the Indians are still thinking about an upper-division OVC finish. Despite being tied for sixth place in the nine-team league, Southeast is only two games out of second place. The top four finishers earn home games for the first round of the league tournament.

"We still haven't given up on getting that fourth spot," Garner said. "If we can put together two wins this week, we'd be right there."

Morehead wins again

Even though Morehead State has played only half its OVC schedule so far, the first-place Eagles are firmly in command of the league race.

The Eagles improved to 8-0 in the OVC by routing host Tennessee-Martin 83-60 Saturday night. Morehead has five conference road wins, including victories at preseason favorites Tennessee Tech and Murray State in addition to the triumph over a solid UT-Martin squad.

"They've already won at what might be the best three teams in the league, outside of them," Garner said. "Getting wins on the road is hard, and they've already got five road wins. That's good for a whole season."

Morehead State finished second in the OVC's regular season last year and returned most of its key players, but was a distant third in the preseason poll behind Murray State and Tennessee Tech.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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