Redhawks fans take heart: Another Arkansas disciple has things rolling at Mizzou

Sunday, December 3, 2006

It's only one game, but the Missouri basketball team was impressive Thursday night in routing what appeared to be a solid and talented Arkansas squad 86-64.

That came after the undefeated Tigers had also romped in their first seven contests, albeit against suspect competition.

Although I'm fairly certain there will be plenty of rough spots the rest of the season -- mainly because I'm not sure the Tigers have enough high-level Big 12 Conference talent right now -- the Mike Anderson era at MU is off to a rousing start.

I bring all of this up because Anderson and Southeast Missouri State first-year coach Scott Edgar are both disciples of Nolan Richardson and follow his "40 Minutes of Hell" style that preaches up-tempo basketball on both ends of the court.

Because of deadlines, I don't have the opportunity to comment on Southeast's Ohio Valley Conference opener Saturday night against visiting Tennessee-Martin, but the Redhawks have certainly struggled during the early stages of Edgar's tenure in Cape Girardeau.

But -- and it remains to be seen if MU will be a factor in the Big 12 -- the way the Tigers are playing right now should at least offer hope to Southeast fans that, once the Redhawks truly grasp Edgar's system, maybe they'll be able to get things rolling as well.

Comparatively speaking, entering this year, I think most people would have said that Southeast had better OVC talent than MU had Big 12 talent, since the Tigers were picked to finish toward the bottom of the league by virtually every organization.

And MU, like Southeast, is relying heavily on players new to the program, along with some who didn't see much action last year. Both squads have only a few true veterans sprinkled in.

My point is, as depressing as things might have been to Southeast fans entering Saturday's game, it's way too early to give up on the season -- and Edgar's system -- just yet, especially with the conference schedule barely under way.

I have no idea when -- or even if -- the Redhawks will get their act together.

But right now, I say simply give it some time.

By hosting Tennessee-Martin Saturday, the Redhawks took part in one of only three OVC matchups so far, as the full slate of conference games won't begin until Thursday.

Due to the expanded 20-game OVC schedule that was instituted last year, the conference has had to start playing league games earlier than usual.

In fact, when Murray State hosted Eastern Illinois on Nov. 25, it marked the earliest opening date in OVC history, and the first conference game to be played nationally this year.

Southeast faces a tough early OVC road swing this week when the Redhawks play at Tennessee State on Thursday night and Tennessee Tech on Saturday night.

Thursday's date at Tennessee State will also mark the OVC opener for the Southeast women.

The Tennessee State women's basketball team finally had a reason to celebrate on the court in more than a year.

The Tigers ended a 30-game losing streak Monday by beating Lipscomb 64-52.

The Tigers' previous victory had come in the final regular season game of the 2004-05 campaign. They went 0-27 last year and had lost their first two games this season.

Area Rams fans who followed Willie Ponder's career at Southeast probably wondered why he wasn't returning kickoffs during last Sunday's game against San Francisco.

Ponder, recently signed by St. Louis after being released by Seattle -- he made his Rams' debut at Carolina on Nov. 19 -- was in street clothes against the 49ers as a pregame inactive.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rams coach Scott Linehan said cornerback Tye Hill's quadriceps injury worked against Ponder because Linehan was concerned that fatigue might be an issue with Hill's quad.

"Had we been 100 percent there, we would've had the luxury of having Willie up, " Linehan told the paper, "but we had to back ourselves up in the secondary."

Safety Dwaine Carpenter, who had been inactive the previous two weeks, dressed against San Francisco, and backup running back Kay-Jay Harris handled kickoff returns.

No word yet if the Rams plan to have Ponder active today.

I've written about the strong play former Eastern Illinois star Tony Romo has exhibited since the Dallas Cowboys made him their starting quarterback.

But Romo's fairytale story -- after starring at Eastern Illinois he made the Dallas roster four years ago as an undrafted free agent but had not thrown an NFL regular-season pass before this year -- just keeps getting better and better.

Last week Romo tied a franchise record by throwing five touchdown passes, and he is now the NFL's highest-rated passer.

Today, Romo faces another rugged challenge when the Cowboys visit the reeling New York Giants in an NFC East Division showdown.

The debate regarding whether Mark McGwire should be voted into the Hall of Fame continues to rage on.

While his credentials would ordinarily make him a sure-fire first-ballot pick, the fact so many people suspect him of having used steroids is what might keep him from being elected, especially during his first time on the ballot.

Do I think McGwire used steroids? Sure I do.

But there is no proof that he did. And if McGwire is kept out of the Hall without any absolute proof, then everybody from his era should be kept out, because how can anybody be certain just who was and who wasn't using steroids during that period?

I don't know that it should be left up to the baseball writers to try and guess who used steroids and who didn't.

So barring any indisputable evidence -- and barring everybody being kept out of the Hall -- I say McGwire should go in.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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