Redhawks try to find shooting touch tonight at home

Friday, December 16, 2005

Southeast hosts Central Methodist of the NAIA at 7:30 p.m. before a two-game road trip to Alabama.

Southeast Missouri State's Redhawks are still waiting for the breakout shooting game that might kickstart their struggling offense.

Could it perhaps come tonight, when the Redhawks (3-4) host NAIA Central Methodist (5-5) in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at the Show Me Center?

Coach Gary Garner hopes so, because the Redhawks could use a burst of confidence prior to resuming Ohio Valley Conference play with a two-game road trip.

"I don't care who you're playing, if we can get some shots to fall, it will definitely help our confidence," Garner said.

Garner realizes he is starting to sound like a broken record, but he still believes the Redhawks are going to come out of their season-long offensive funk that has the veteran coach perplexed.

Southeast is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field, and the Redhawks are averaging only 63.9 points per game. None of Garner's previous eight Southeast teams shot less than 45 percent or averaged less than 69.5 points.

"If I had the answer, we wouldn't be struggling," Garner said. "My assistants say they [shots] are going to start falling. Well, it's been seven games, and they haven't started falling.

"It's very frustrating. And, even though our defense has been pretty good, when you're struggling offensively, it affects you defensively. It's human nature. It's not like football, where you have separate offenses and defenses."

The Redhawks have not even come close to shooting 50 percent in any of their seven games -- and only twice have they been above 40 percent, with one of those just barely (40.4 percent). Southeast's best shooting performance has been 47.4 percent.

"We've never struggled like this offensively since I've been here, but I still think we'll come out of it," Garner said.

Tonight would seem like a perfect opportunity, as the Redhawks tune up for an OVC trip to Alabama, when they play Samford on Monday and Jacksonville State on Wednesday. Southeast is 1-2 in league play.

Central Methodist would appear to be what the doctor ordered for the Redhawks as they finished up their finals this week -- but the Eagles also just might be dangerous.

Last year, Central Methodist trailed Southeast by 21 points with less than 7 minutes remaining, then cut the deficit to three points in the final minute before losing 83-77.

Central Methodist coach Jeff Sherman knows the Eagles will be big underdogs, but he said his players look forward to the challenge.

"I've always scheduled one or two Division I games a year the last five or six years. We've never won, but we've been close a few times," said Sherman, in his 21st season at the school in Fayette, Mo. "I tell people around here that our guys have always, at one point, dreamed of playing Division I basketball.

"We don't feel like we've got any pressure on ourselves. Hopefully we can play loose. And I always like going to Cape. I have some friends there, and we always get treated real well."

The Eagles played Division I Missouri-Kansas City earlier this season and led by a point midway through the second half before losing 74-61.

Sherman realizes the Eagles will be overmatched athletically tonight, but he believes they are capable of making things interesting if they shoot well.

"We won't have the athletes, the quickness, but we do have a team capable of shooting the ball," Sherman said.

The Eagles are shooting 39 percent from 3-point range -- the same as the Redhawks' OVC-leading figure that surprisingly is higher than their overall field-goal percentage -- and average 73 points per game.

Central Methodist's leading scorers are 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward Mike Wilken (12.6 ppg) and 6-6 senior guard Jordan Willer (12.5 ppg), an NAIA All-American last year.

"So far we've been kind of an up and down team. We've got a lot of new players and we're still trying to find ourselves," Sherman said. "But I think we have the team, in our conference, that's capable of getting to the national tournament [the top two finishers in the Heart of America Conference qualify]."

Garner knows Southeast should win tonight and even its record before resuming OVC action -- but the way the Redhawks have been playing, he knows they better not take the Eagles lightly.

"It's a game we should win if we come to play," Garner said. "But in college basketball, on a given night, anybody can beat you. They're good enough, where if we don't approach the game the right way, they can beat us."


* All youths age 18 and under will be admitted free as part of the NCAA promotion, "Take A Kid To The Game." The halftime show will feature mascot basketball.

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