Redhawks try to end skid vs. Panthers

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Both teams have stuggled in OVC play.

Southeast Missouri State will square off with a squad in the same boat as itself tonight.

Like the Redhawks, Eastern Illinois has been mathematically eliminated from having a shot at qualifying for the eight-team Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

So the Redhawks (6-17, 3-14) and Panthers (5-18, 4-13) both will have to look for motivation from within when they meet at 7:30 p.m. at the Show Me Center.

"It's a pride thing with us, and it probably is for them," said Southeast coach Gary Garner, whose squad has four games remaining, including three OVC contests. "Hopefully our team can rally around the seniors a little bit."

Southeast will try to break a 10-game losing streak, which is the program's longest skid since moving up to Division I in 1991-92.

The Redhawks are also trying to escape the cellar in the 11-team OVC. They trail 10th-place Morehead State by one-half game and ninth-place EIU by one game.

"You always want to finish as high as you can," Garner said. "We'd rather finish ninth than 10th or last."

Southeast beat EIU 72-60 on Jan. 5 in Charleston, Ill. That moved the Redhawks to 3-4 in OVC play as they appeared ready to make a move up the standings.

"We played well at their place, maybe the best we've played all season," Garner said.

But the Redhawks have not tasted victory since, assuring them of their fourth losing season in the last five years.

This will also mark just the second time in nine seasons under Garner that Southeast has not qualified for the OVC tournament. The only other such occasion took place in 2003-04, when Southeast tied for 10th.

EIU, which has lost four straight, is led by senior guard Josh Gomes, a first team preseason all-OVC pick.

Gomes is averaging 15.2 points for a squad that ranks last in the OVC in scoring with 60 points per game. Gomes leads the conference in 3-point shooting at 50 percent (48 of 96).

"They're athletic and they've got some really good players, especially Gomes," Garner said. "They just haven't gotten it together for whatever reason, but their talent level is very good.

"They've got their team intact, the same starters from Day One. We're not in nearly as good a shape as we were when we played them there."

Southeast is down to seven available scholarship players, and two of those are somewhat ailing.

Junior guard Terrick Willoughby has a sprained left shoulder, although he should play tonight. Senior center Waylon Francis has been bothered by an illness that is similar to the flu.

"Terrick should play. How effective he'll be, we don't know," Garner said. "Waylon is getting better. He played both games last week when he was really sick. I'm really proud of him."

Noteworthy

* Derek Winans, named a first-team Academic All-America last season by ESPN The Magazine, will receive his award at tonight's game.

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