Indians dealt a loss to wrap up preseason

Thursday, November 13, 2003

It's not exactly the way Southeast Missouri State University's men's basketball team wanted to enter the season.

But perhaps the one good thing about Wednesday night's 66-61 exhibition loss to Division II Missouri-Rolla at the Show Me Center is that it doesn't count on the Indians' record.

Even during the Indians' best Division I season -- in 1999-2000 when Southeast won its only Ohio Valley Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament -- they lost an exhibition game.

That, however, wasn't of very much consolation to coach Gary Garner. It's not so much that the Indians lost, he said, but more how they played.

"I'm really disappointed we played so poorly. We seemed to come out really lethargic," Garner said. "You have to give Rolla credit. They played well, and they have a good team. But I'm really disappointed in the way we played.

"But it is an exhibition game. When the season starts, nobody's going to remember whether you won or lost these. It's kind of like exhibition games in the NFL. Win or lose, you don't put too much stock into the game."

Southeast junior guard Derek Winans, who scored 17 points and had four assists, said the Indians should be able to put what happened Wednesday behind them when the games begin to count on Nov. 21 against visiting Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"We want to win and we're disappointed to lose. Nobody likes to lose," Winans said. "But the point of exhibition games are to find out your strengths and weaknesses. This hasn't shaken our confidence."

Junior forward Dainmon Gonner, a first-year Indian, led scoring for the second straight exhibition game as he had 18 points along with four assists. Gonner scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds during last Thursday's 93-66 rout of Division II Truman State.

Junior guard/forward Norman Prather, a junior-college transfer who sat out the exhibition opener with an ankle injury, added 11 points.

"It's disappointing to lose, but we just have to work harder," Prather said. "I think we'll be fine."

Southeast had no answer for UMR's 6-foot-9, 255-pound All-American center Brian Westre, who powered his way to 25 points and 15 rebounds as the Miners won the battle of the boards 37-31.

Ike Muonelo, a senior guard, added 15 points and seven assists for the Miners.

"We think we're really going to have a good squad this year, and this is a big ego boost for us," said Westre, who was recruited by numerous Division I programs -- including Southeast -- out of high school. "We wanted to come down here and make a game of it, and to win is a good way to go into the season."

The Indians trailed 34-29 at halftime and fell behind 58-47 with just over five minutes remaining.

Southeast rallied behind two 3-pointers from junior guard Mike Nelke, a Valparaiso transfer. The Indians twice pulled to within one point at 58-57 and 60-59 but could get no closer.

Winans and junior guard Brett Hale both missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds that would have tied the contest. Muonelo finally iced the UMR victory by hitting two free throws with two seconds left.

"We're like anybody else this time of the year. We have a lot of work to do," Garner said. "We just have to keep working hard and get ready for Wisconsin-Green Bay."

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