Redhawks try to get back on track

Thursday, January 18, 2007
Tennessee State senior Clarence Matthews leads the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding at 8.3 boards per game. He also averages. 12.9 points (MARK J. TERRILL ~ Associated Press)

Tennessee State is riding a three-game winning streak, while Southeast Missouri State just had its three-game winning streak snapped.

The teams square off at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Show Me Center as the Redhawks try to even the score against a squad that handed them one of their four narrow Ohio Valley Conference losses.

On Dec. 7 in Nashville, Tenn., TSU beat Southeast 75-72. Including that game, the Redhawks have suffered four of their five OVC defeats by a total of eight points.

Those heart-breakers explain why Southeast (6-12, 4-5) is in eighth place in the 11-team OVC, instead of challenging for one of the top spots and perhaps even first.

But coach Scott Edgar and his players know they can do nothing to reverse those earlier results.

All Southeast can do is focus on the future, which will include six of its next eight OVC games at the Show Me Center -- including four of the next five -- beginning tonight with the sixth-place Tigers (8-9, 4-3)

"We have fought to respectability in this conference, and hopefully now we've got a chance to come home and make a move in this very competitive conference," Edgar said. "When the schedule was first printed, this was the stretch we've waited for."

Said junior point guard Paul Paradoski: "Having six of our next eight games at home ... that's what coach has been talking about.

"We have to take them one at a time, but we know we've got a chance to really make up some ground."

Even though Southeast suffered its second one-point OVC loss Saturday at Austin Peay -- to go along with a pair of three-point defeats -- Paradoski said the Redhawks actually left Clarksville, Tenn., more encouraged than discouraged.

The Redhawks almost beat the league leader despite playing without two starters.

"If we're playing this well on the road against a team like Austin Peay without two of our starters, there's no telling what we can do at home," Paradoski said.

Southeast will get one of those missing regulars back tonight after junior center Mike Rembert served a one-game OVC suspension for being ejected from the previous league contest at Murray State.

Still out tonight will be senior guard Terrick Willoughby, who has missed the past two games with mononucleosis and will likely miss several more games.

Two things in particular hurt the Redhawks during their earlier meeting with the Tigers.

One was 6-foot-11, 240-pound senior center Larry Turner, who scored a career-high 22 points in that game, 15 coming in the second half.

Turner averages just 7.6 points per game on the season, although he is the OVC's No. 2 rebounder with 7.9 a contest.

"We just have to play bigger, stronger, tougher against him, and not let him have his way," Edgar said. "He's a very talented player. Even when he doesn't score, he command so much attention, and he's such a force defensively."

The other was free-throw shooting, which has been a problem for the Redhawks all season.

Southeast made just 14 of 25 foul shots (56 percent) against the Tigers.

At Austin Peay on Saturday, the Redhawks hit 10 of 17 from the line (58.8 percent).

And during a 70-67 home loss to Jacksonville State on Dec. 17, Southeast was 19 of 35 from the line (54.3 percent).

Edgar remains as perplexed as anybody by Southeast's poor season from the charity stripe.

The Redhawks are last in the OVC in free-throw shooting at 59.5 percent, which ranks them among the nation's worst in that category.

"It's very frustrating," Edgar said. "It's something we continue to work on. Hopefully this homestand we'll start to make them."

TSU figures to be a tough opponent for the Redhawks no matter how they shoot their free throws.

The Tigers are regarded as among the OVC's most talented teams, and lately they've played like it. Their three-game winning streak includes an 18-point victory over Samford, which at the time was undefeated in the conference.

"They're as talented as any team in the league," Edgar said.

Ladarious Weaver, a 6-foot junior guard, leads the Tigers in scoring with 15.6 points per game. He is second in 3-pointers made in the OVC with 57, and shoots 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Clarence Matthews, a rugged 6-7, 250-pound senior forward, averages 12.9 points and an OVC-leading 8.3 rebounds per game for TSU.

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