Redhawks buoyed by improved shooting

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Southeast has shot over 50 percent from the field in its last two games.

Two straight games of shooting better than 50 percent from the field and limiting their turnovers has given Southeast Missouri State's Redhawks reason for optimism regarding the rest of the season.

"It's very encouraging to shoot as well as we have the last two games," Southeast coach Gary Garner said during his weekly media conference Monday. "Keeping our turnovers down and shooting the ball a little better definitely gives us a lot better chance to be successful."

The Redhawks shot 51.2 percent and committed 13 turnovers during Saturday's 81-68 loss at Murray State, as they trailed by just four points with under nine minutes left.

During Thursday's 72-60 win at Eastern Illinois -- Southeast's only Ohio Valley Conference road victory so far -- the Redhawks shot 53.1 percent and had nine turnovers.

Contrast those two performances to the rest of the season. Southeast entered the Eastern Illinois game shooting 40.3 percent and averaging more than 16 turnovers.

Prior to Thursday, the Redhawks' previous best-shooting OVC contest had been 42.1 percent.

"When we shoot the ball pretty good, we'll be in the game," Garner said.

Said junior guard Terrick Willoughby following Saturday's loss at Murray State, "We're playing a lot better now, and hopefully we can keep improving. We have to keep our turnovers down, and shoot the ball."

Despite the setback to the powerful Racers, the Redhawks won two of three games last week, including a home victory over Eastern Kentucky.

"Any time you can win two out of three, and two of them being on the road, we'll take that," Garner said.

After playing three games in six days, the Redhawks (6-8, 3-5 OVC) now have the entire week to rest a bit and prepare for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. home contest against Austin Peay (9-5, 4-2).

"We gave the players two days off [Sunday and Monday]. They really need it, physically as well as mentally, after playing three games in six days," Garner said.

Willoughby bounces back

Willoughby, Southeast's second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, endured a miserable shooting slump that lasted several games, but he has bounced back recently.

Over the past three games, the 6-foot-4 Willoughby is 15 of 26 from the field and seven of 13 from 3-point range. He ranks fifth in the OVC in 3-point shooting at 38.5 percent.

"Everybody goes through slumps, but I feel a lot better now," Willoughby said.

After starting the first 10 games of the season, Garner has brought Willoughby off the bench in the past four games as junior college transfer Eric Burtin has started in his spot, although Willoughby continues to play the bulk of the minutes.

"Terrick continues to play well coming off the bench," Garner said. "He's really responding to coming off the bench. He's playing like we thought he would all year."

Garner said that, as long as Willoughby keeps performing well, he will probably continue coming off the bench.

"He probably deserves to start, but he's playing a lot of minutes," Garner said. "As long as it's not broke, don't fix it."

Going for No. 200

The Redhawks will be shooting for their 200th victory at the Show Me Center Saturday night against Austin Peay.

Southeast is 199-76 at the Show Me Center since the facility opened in 1987, for a winning percentage of 72.4.

Southeast's first Show Me Center win was 84-66 over Southern Arkansas on Nov. 27, 1987. Victory No. 100 came on Dec. 2, 1994, an 82-75 triumph over Fairfield.

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