Redhawks to conclude trip at Jacksonville St.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Southeast will try to snap a two-game OVC skid tonight against the improved Gamecocks.

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Southeast Missouri State senior guard Roy Booker believes the Redhawks are considerably better than what their play has suggested.

But Booker also knows that the Redhawks need to start showing it in a hurry.

"We're underachieving so bad. We're better than this," Booker said. "We really need this game."

Booker was referring to tonight's contest, as the Redhawks (4-5, 1-3 Ohio Valley Conference) close out their two-game OVC road trip with a 7 p.m. tipoff at Jacksonville State (4-4, 2-1).

"We can't go 1-4 [in league play]. We need to get to 2-3," Booker said.

Booker was about the only offense the Redhawks had going for them Monday night, as they began their road swing to Alabama with a 68-53 loss at Samford.

Booker, the Redhawks' leading scorer this season at 19.7 points per game, scored 24 points. He shot 50 percent from the field overall (nine of 18) and from 3-point range (five of 10).

But the rest of the Redhawks combined to shoot just 10 of 34, including three of 15 on 3-pointers.

Southeast's 36.5 field-goal percentage dipped its season mark to 40.3 percent.

The Redhawks have been above 41 percent in only two games all year, their high-water mark being 59.2 during Friday's blowout of Central Methodist, an average NAIA team. Southeast's next-best shooting performance was 47.4, during a win at South Dakota State.

"We're just not making shots, that's our Achilles' heel," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "I thought maybe we had gotten over the hump the other night.

"We've got to start shooting better as a team. If we don't, it's going to be hard to beat anybody."

Southeast, averaging just 64.6 points per game, figures to need an upgraded offense tonight against a Jacksonville State squad that is averaging 74.2 points a contest.

The Gamecocks suffered their first OVC loss Monday night as powerful Murray State romped 91-72, but Jacksonville State has already won at Samford and Tennessee-Martin.

Jacksonville State finished last in the OVC a year ago with just two conference wins, but the Gamecocks were hampered by a rash of injuries that left them shorthanded. They have already matched their league victory total from last season.

"They're a lot better than what they were last year," Garner said. "They're an athletic team that really likes to get the ball up and down the court. They play a completely different style than what we saw at Samford."

The Gamecocks are led offensively by senior guard B.J. Spencer at 15.3 points per game.

Junior forward Courtney Bradley is averaging 13 points per game, while senior point guard Walker Russell is at 12 points a contest. Russell was a second team all-OVC selection last year.

"Walker Russell is one of the better players in the league," Garner said. "He's definitely one of the top point guards in the league. He really makes them go."

Jacksonville State is allowing opponents to shoot 51.3 percent from the field, which perhaps means Southeast might finally get its slumbering offense going against an OVC opponent.

Southeast has not shot as well as 41 percent in any of its four conference games.

"We just have to get our offense going," Garner said. "We're not playing great in other areas, but in most areas we're playing good enough. It's our offense that is really holding us back."

Perhaps as important for the Redhawks, according to Booker, is that they remain mentally tough.

"We can't get down. We have to stay strong," Booker said. "I know we can turn this around. And we have to start [tonight]."

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