Southeast laments lost opportunities in DePaul loss

Friday, January 2, 2004

CHICAGO, Ill. -- The most frustrating part of Southeast Missouri State University's 57-50 New Year's Eve loss at DePaul is that the Indians had every opportunity to win.

But the Indians simply did not play -- or shoot --quite well enough to pull off the upset.

"This game was there for the taking," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We could have won that every bit as easily as they did."

Added junior guard Derek Winans, "DePaul is a good team, but we gave it to them. They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves."

In truth, the game could have gone either way as both teams are now 6-4. Particularly disturbing to the Indians were several crucial turnovers in the late going with the contest virtually dead even as each squad could have taken control.

"If we could have kept our turnovers to a minimum, we could have beat them," senior center Brandon Griffin said.

Southeast finished with 16 turnovers.

With the game tied 46-46, Southeast turned the ball over four times.

"That's where we lost the game or where DePaul won the game, however you want to look at it," Garner said.

On the bright side, Garner is encouraged that the Indians have been able to hang with several high-profile opponents on the road this season.

The Indians trailed at Arkansas by just four points with a little more than one minute left before losing by 10. They also hung tough at Southern Illinois before falling by 13. Their other defeat was by 11 points at Montana.

"If there is anything good about a loss, it's that all four have been on the road against very good teams," Garner said. "We've shown we can play with good teams."

Added Winans, "We've shown we can play against teams like DePaul and Arkansas. If we can just improve in certain areas, we can beat teams like that."

Garner also was pleased by the Indians' defense Wednesday afternoon.

"That might have been as good as we've played defense this year," he said. "But I didn't think we executed very well offensively."

DePaul shot 39 percent from the field (23 of 59) and Southeast made 36.7 percent (18 of 49). The Demons hit four of 14 3-pointers (28.6 percent) and the Indians made five of 19 (26.3 percent) from long range.

Poor free-throw shooting also continued to plague the Indians as they hit just nine of 16 (56.3 percent). The Demons made seven of eight foul shots (87.5 percent).

Delonte Holland, a 6-foot-7 senior forward who is Conference USA's second-leading scorer, paced DePaul with 21 points. He entered the contest averaging 19.8 per game.

Junior guard Drake Diener hit three of five 3-pointers and scored 15 points for the Demons.

DePaul played without the nation's fourth-leading rebounder, senior center Andre Brown, who was averaging 13.1 points and 10.6 boards per game. Brown has a knee injury.

"I'm sure they missed Brown. I think he makes a big difference for them," Garner said.

Griffin led the Indians with 15 points. He also had eight rebounds and three assists.

Junior forward Dainmon Gonner had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He also dished out three assists.

"It was a good game all the way through and both teams played excellent defense," Griffin said.

The Demons scored the game's first 11 points and led 13-2 before the Indians settled in and turned the game into a tight affair until the closing seconds.

Southeast pulled into a 28-28 tie on two Gonner free throws with 1:04 left in the first half, but DePaul moved ahead 31-28 at the intermission.

DePaul opened up a 41-33 lead early in the second half, but Southeast would not go away. Mike Nelke's 3-pointer at the 10:12 mark again knotted things at 46-46. Neither squad scored for the next four minutes, before Griffin's short jump hook with 6:12 left gave the Indians their first lead of the day at 48-46.

Holland came right back with a 3-pointer at the 5:44 mark as DePaul regained a 49-48 advantage. Southeast again squandered several chances to assume control as neither team scored for more than three minutes.

Holland gave DePaul a 51-48 lead on a follow shot with 2:20 remaining. After another Southeast turnover, Diener made a tough 15-footer with the shot clock about to expire for a 53-48 advantage at the 1:25 mark.

Griffin's layup with 1:02 left made it 53-50 and DePaul immediately committed a turnover. But Griffin missed inside as Southeast remained three points behind. Holland and Diener then both hit two free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the victory.

"We had more than enough chances to win the game," Garner said. "We just didn't capitalize."

The Indians conclude their two-game road trip Saturday with a noon contest against Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.

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