Magic number still one for Redhawks to reach tourney

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Southeast still needs one win to clinch a spot in the OVC's postseasonor it could get some help from others.

Although Southeast Missouri State has been beaten soundly in its last two games, the Redhawks have suffered their share of heart-breaking Ohio Valley Conference losses.

The toughest to take were consecutive home defeats to Jacksonville State and Samford in a span of three days during December.

The Redhawks will have an opportunity to avenge those losses this week -- and in the process nail down a berth in the OVC tournament -- as they close out the regular season with a road trip to Alabama.

Southeast (10-18, 8-10) faces Samford (14-14, 11-7) at 7 p.m. tonight and Jacksonville State (8-20, 6-12) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Redhawks are in sixth place in the 11-team OVC, while Samford is tied for fourth and Jacksonville State is ninth.

One more victory for the Redhawks assures them a spot in the eight-team conference tournament.

Even without winning another game, the Redhawks stand a solid chance of squeezing into the postseason event that begins Tuesday -- but they'd rather take care of things on their own.

After losing three straight games, they're more than ready to experience that winning feeling again.

"Everybody is tired of losing," senior center Tyrell White said.

Despite their recent struggles, the Redhawks should at least be able to take some confidence into their final two regular-season contests.

First, Southeast has had more success on the road than at home during OVC play. The Redhawks are 4-4 in conference road games, as opposed to 4-6 at the Show Me Center.

"For whatever reason, we've played better on the road than at home," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said.

Then there is the fact the Redhawks believe they should have won both of the earlier meetings with both Samford and Jacksonville State -- and it's hard to argue with them about that.

On Dec. 17 at the Show Me Center, Jacksonville State guard Will Ginn threw in a shot from just past mid-court at the buzzer to beat the Redhawks 70-67.

Southeast had itself to blame for that defeat, because the OVC's worst free-throw shooting team (62.6 percent) made just 19 of 35 from the charity stripe.

Two days later, visiting Samford stunned the Redhawks 65-64 on guard Jerry Smith's acrobatic layup with 2 seconds remaining.

"We lost to both of them at the buzzer in games we know we should have won," freshman point guard Roderick Pearson said.

Those are two of Southeast's seven losses in OVC games that were decided in the final minutes. The Redhawks have won four such contests.

"We've lost a lot of tough conference games, and two of them were to Samford and Jacksonville State," Edgar said.

Southeast's opponent on the first leg of this week's road trip also is desperate for a win.

While Southeast is reeling with three straight losses -- the last two by a combined 24 points in games that really weren't that close -- Samford has suffered four consecutive defeats.

That has left preseason OVC favorite Samford, which not long ago was contending for the regular-season title, in danger of not even finishing in the top four and earning a first-round league tournament home game.

"They've been on somewhat of a skid, but they're playing to get a [tournament] home game," Edgar said.

Southeast will be confronted with Samford's unique Princeton-style offense that generally milks the shot clock most of the game.

As a result, the Bulldogs score the fewest points among all OVC teams, but they also allow the fewest. Samford averages 58.4 points per game and gives up 60.5.

"They are unique with the style of offense they play, and also their defense [a matchup zone]," Edgar said.

The Bulldogs feature one of the conference's top guards in senior Randall Gulina, the OVC's No. 2 scorer at 17.8 points per game.

Gulina and Smith, who averages 10.1 points, combined for 45 points in the earlier game against Southeast, Smith scoring 24 and Gulina adding 21.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: