Shorthanded Redhawks drop eighth straight game

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Tennessee-Martin held off Southeast's second-half rally to post a 66-55 victory Saturday.

Southeast Missouri State finally slowed down Tennessee-Martin enough to get back in the game.

But the depleted Redhawks didn't have enough in their tank to finish off the job.

The result was Saturday night's 66-55 loss at the Show Me Center, as the Redhawks suffered their eighth consecutive defeat and saw their hopes of making the Ohio Valley Conference tournament diminish greatly.

"We were shorthanded and that made it real tough, with guys playing out of position," Southeast senior forward Ketshner Guerrier said. "We fought our way back in the second half, but we got winded and we couldn't get it done."

Southeast (6-15, 3-12) remained 10th in the 11-team OVC with five games left. Only the top eight finishers qualify for the conference tournament.

UTM (10-12, 7-9) is in eighth place, and only one other squad above the Skyhawks has as few as seven conference victories. The Redhawks would virtually have to win the rest of their games, while the teams they are chasing lose most of theirs.

"It's not looking good, but we still have a shot," senior guard Roy Booker said. "We've just got to keep fighting."

The Redhawks were down to seven available scholarship players Saturday, after junior forward Andrais Thornton was indefinitely suspended from the team after being arrested Tuesday on felony charges of rape and sexual battery for an alleged incident that took place more than two years ago in Colby, Kan., where Thornton was attending Colby Community College.

Thornton is Southeast's leading rebounder, and he ranks fifth in the OVC. His suspension came on the heels of junior guard Eric Burtin recently being sidelined for the season with a broken leg, while junior guard David Johnson played in just three games before being lost for the season due to hernia surgery.

Throw in the fact the Redhawks played without their head coach -- Gary Garner was suspended for one game, under OVC policy, after being ejected late in Monday's loss at Austin Peay -- and the deck was stacked against Southeast.

"Missing 'Dre was big. He gets seven, eight rebounds a game," Booker said. "And not having coach Garner. ... But our assistants did a good job."

The Redhawks dug themselves a big hole as they trailed 35-20 at halftime and 37-20 early in the second half.

Southeast stormed back, pulled within 47-43 midway through the second half and still trailed just 50-45 with seven minutes remaining. The Redhawks had plenty of chances to draw even closer, but failed to convert, as UTM steadily regained control.

"I was very proud of the effort," said assistant coach Ronnie Dean, who served as Southeast's acting head coach in Garner's absence. "We could have easily given up."

UTM coach Bret Campbell, whose squad posted its third straight victory -- and won both meetings with Southeast this season -- praised the Redhawks' performance. He also credited his players for coming out strong and not overlooking the game.

"I think we always realize when we walk into the Show Me Center, there's no such thing as an easy game," Campbell said. "We were fortunate the way we played the first half defensively.

"We were hoping to put them away in the second half. They very easily could have quit. It shows the heart of that team."

Poor shooting again did in the Redhawks. This time they hit a season-low 27.5 percent (14 of 51).

"We shoot 28 percent and lose by 11," Dean said, shaking his head. "If we just shoot 35 percent, we have a chance to win."

Booker, the OVC's top scorer at 22.5 points per game, had 23 points but made just 4 of 20 shots. He did most of his damage from the free-throw line, hitting 14 of 15.

Freshman swingman Eric Jones added nine points, while Guerrier -- starting in place of Thornton -- had eight points and five rebounds. Seldom-used junior center Tyrell White had his best game with five points and five rebounds.

"I thought Eric Jones, Ketshner Guerrier and Tyrell White stepped up big," Dean said.

Senior forward Jared Newson, the OVC's No. 4 scorer at 18 points per game, led UTM with 23 points, 15 coming in the first half.

"Jared Newson took over the game in the first half," Dean said.

After UTM shot 53.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes to build its big lead, Southeast held the Skyhawks to 31.8 percent in the second half as the Redhawks rallied.

But Southeast, which never led and was tied just once at 2-2, didn't have nearly enough firepower to complete the comeback.

"We always fight back, but we're short of players, and fatigue sets in," Jones said.

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