Indians eager for a second chance vs. Eastern Ill.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University coach Gary Garner figures there is no way Eastern Illinois can play as well against the Indians tonight as it did last time.

At least that's Garner's hope.

"If they can play any better than that, I don't want to see it," Garner said, laughing.

The Ohio Valley Conference rematch is set for 7:10 p.m. in Charleston, Ill. The Indians, 9-11 overall and 4-4 in the OVC, are riding a two-game winning streak following Saturday's stirring 75-71 victory over Tennessee Tech. The Panthers are 8-12 and 3-5.

When EIU and Southeast squared off Jan. 4 in Cape Girardeau to open the OVC schedule, the Panthers shot 70.4 percent in the second half and 57.4 percent for the game in an 85-75 triumph that was not as close as the margin suggested. EIU led by 19 points with about a minute left before a late flurry made the score deceptively respectable.

"It wound up 10 points, but it was really a 20-point game," Garner said. "They just totally dominated us. The way they played, I don't know if we could have done anything, but we were partly to fault.

"It was a very poor performance by us. That's the one game, in the last couple of years, where I didn't feel like we had the intensity and effort."

As usual when the Indians face EIU, their focus will be on trying to at least slow down 6-foot-4 senior guard Henry Domercant, the reigning OVC Player of the Year who ranks second nationally in scoring with an average of 26.3 points per game.

Domercant, who also was second nationally in scoring last year (26.4 ppg) and fourth as a sophomore (22.8 ppg), hit 14 of 17 field-goal attempts -- from just about all over the court -- and poured in 35 points during the Jan. 4 meeting.

And that was against what Garner thought was a strong defensive effort by Southeast sophomore guard Brett Hale, who shadowed Domercant most of the contest.

"Brett did about as good a job as you could do. There were times when he was so close to Domercant, I thought he was going to block the shot," Garner said. "Domercant was just awesome. I said at the time that was the best offensive performance I've seen in the six years I've been in the league."

Domercant torching the Indians is nothing new. Last season, he scored 39 and 38 points in two games against Southeast, although the Indians were able to win one of them.

"We try something different every game, but he just lights us up," Garner said. "He's a great player."

Domercant wasn't EIU's only big offensive weapon in the earlier meeting. Jesse Mackinson, a 6-8 junior center, scored 18 points as he hit nine of 13 shots, most of them jumpers from about 15 to 17 feet.

"Part of that was my fault. I wasn't that concerned about Mackinson, but he probably hurt us as much as Domercant," Garner said. "Hopefully they won't be that hot this time."

Mackinson averages 11.2 points per game while EIU's second-leading scorer is 6-4 senior guard J.R. Reynolds at 12.0.

Last season at Lantz Gym, the Indians led by 18 points midway through the second half before EIU rallied for the victory.

"We kind of fell apart there last year," Garner said.

While winning tonight won't be easy, the Indians should at least have confidence following Saturday's triumph over two-time defending OVC regular-season champion Tennessee Tech.

"We're playing really good right now, and hopefully we can go on the road and get another win," said sophomore guard Derek Winans, who scored a team-high 23 points Saturday, just ahead of Hale's 20 points. "Eastern Illinois will be tough, and Domercant is a great player, but we've proven we can beat anybody in the league if we play good."

The Indians have moved up to fifth place in the nine-team OVC and they are just a game out of third place, which is shared by Tennessee Tech and Murray State, who are both 5-3.

"We knew if we could win these last two games that would put us right back up there in the standings," Winans said, referring to Thursday's home win over Tennessee State and the Tennessee Tech triumph.

Following tonight's contest, the Indians will again have a two-game conference homestand, playing league-leading Morehead State Thursday night and Eastern Kentucky Saturday night.

"This is really a big game for us, especially with us coming back home for two games," Garner said. "It we could pull that off, it would put us back for a chance for that fourth spot. A win would be huge."

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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