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Redhawks take short break for final exams
Southeast hopes to upgrade its defense and rebounding during practice this week.
Southeast Missouri State's first Ohio Valley Conference road trip of the season featured improvements in certain areas, continued struggles in other areas, and no wins.
The Redhawks will now have the entire week to prepare -- and take care of finals -- for a two-game homestand that they hope will help them climb the OVC standings.
Southeast (3-7, 1-2 OVC) hosts Jacksonville State (2-6, 0-2) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and preseason conference favorite Samford (3-4, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday.
The Redhawks are in a three-way tie for eighth place in the 11-team OVC. Jacksonville State is last, but both its league losses have been by one point on last-second shots. Samford is one of only two squads to have not yet suffered a conference defeat.
"It's good to be back home after a difficult and challenging road trip," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said on Monday.
Southeast lost 75-72 at Tennessee State on Thursday and 91-76 at Tennessee Tech on Saturday, despite leading the Eagles by three points at halftime.
"No road game is ever easy in any particular year, but in this case, I think we may have played the two most athletic teams in the OVC. That's why they were picked to finish so high in the polls," Edgar said. "I'm disappointed that we did not get a win or both wins. I thought both games were winnable."
But Edgar added, "I am not discouraged."
Southeast's offense, which struggled early in the year, showed continued signs of life against both Tennessee State -- picked second in the OVC preseason poll -- and preseason No. 3 Tennessee Tech.
The Redhawks are averaging just 64 points per game (ranking No. 254 among 325 Division I teams), but they have averaged 76.3 points in their three conference games.
Southeast is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field (No. 284 nationally), but 45.1 percent in league play.
Against Tennessee State, the Redhawks had their fourth-highest field-goal shooting performance of the season at 45.5 percent.
Against Tennessee Tech, Southeast had its second-best 3-point shooting performance of the season (40 percent) and also its second-best free-throw shooting night (69.2 percent).
Overall, the Redhawks are shooting just 28.9 percent from 3-point range (No. 275 nationally) and only 57.4 percent from the free-throw line (No. 317 nationally).
"I did see some things that are very promising," Edgar said of the road trip. "I think we're coming along [offensively]."
Defense and rebounding, however, continue to be among the Redhawks' main problem areas.
Defensively, Southeast is allowing an averaging of 78.8 points per game (No. 304 nationally), while teams are shooting 46.7 percent against the Redhawks (No. 269 nationally), including a healthy 40.8 percent from 3-point range.
"The key to playing defense in our system is how can you recover out of a trap, how can you rotate and play team defense," Edgar said. "I don't like the way we're playing team defense. This week, defense will be a focus."
Southeast is being outrebounded by an average of nearly eight per game (No. 306 nationally), and the Redhawks have been outrebounded in every contest.
Edgar expected the Redhawks to have their share of problems on the boards, since they are a relatively short team even by OVC standards. But he hoped they could at least come close to holding their own in that area.
It hasn't helped Southeast that its tallest player -- 6-foot-9 center Mike Rembert -- has been in early foul trouble most nights, which has limited his time on the court.
"That [rebounding] concerns me. Rebounding is a mindset, rebounding is going to get the basketball," Edgar said. "Mike has been in foul trouble way too often, way too early. It's forced us to go smaller, forced us to scramble ... and we've gone up against some very big and athletic front lines."
The Redhawks will try to improve on many of their problem areas this week as they work their practice schedule around semester finals.
"This is an important week. It looks like we have a huge amount of practice time, but this is the most important week for the student-athletes," Edgar said. "We'll work hard and work smart, but we have to give them time to achieve what they came to school for."
Even though Southeast is currently toward the bottom of the OVC standings, Edgar emphasized that losses on the road against two of the anticipated top teams certainly haven't crippled the Redhawks' conference hopes -- especially with 17 league games still remaining.
"Those were games we would have loved to get. They would have been huge," Edgar said. "But we did not fall behind in the race. Now, in time, there are games like Tennessee State that we have to take.
"But it's a long season. The marathon is just starting."