Red-hot Redhawks face final exams, long layoff

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Southeast men will not play a game for 10 days after opening OVC schedule with pair of wins.

In the big picture -- players performing well in class -- this is a good week for the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team to not have any games.

But as hot as the Redhawks are right now, coach Scott Edgar admits it might be nice for them to avoid such a lengthy break.

The Redhawks, who posted two impressive home wins to start their Ohio Valley Conference schedule, have this week off for finals.

Southeast, coming off Saturday's 84-74 victory over Tennessee Tech, doesn't play again until Dec. 18, when a three-game road trip begins at Samford.

"Nine, 10 days ... it's a long time not to play a game," Edgar said Monday. "But the most important thing is their school work."

Edgar said the Redhawks will have relatively short daily workouts for much of this week, then they'll pick up the pace once finals are over.

"We'll work out every day to stay sharp," he said. "We just want to shoot and handle the ball, keep our conditioning up."

Edgar said the Redhawks' 2-0 conference start -- it marks the first time Southeast has won its first two OVC games since the 1999-2000 season -- might even help give the players an extra boost for finals.

"They should feel good about themselves, being 2-0," he said. "I think it goes hand in hand [athletics and academics]. ... It's just how the mind works."

While Edgar said it's a good feeling to be at the top of the OVC standings right now, he continues to caution that people shouldn't get too carried away, since there are 18 league games remaining.

"It's a great start, obviously," said Edgar, whose squad posted a 102-95 win over Tennessee State in Thursday's league opener. "As we [OVC teams] all start out, we all have hopes to contend for the title.

"As the week started, there were some significant road wins. ... It really placed importance on trying to protect the home court, which is one thing we were not able to do last year."

Unbeaten at home

The Redhawks (6-4) are 4-0 at home. Last year, during Edgar's first season, Southeast was 5-8 at home, including 4-6 in conference play. The Redhawks finished 11-20 overall and 9-11 in the OVC.

Comparing this year to last season, Edgar said: "To me, year two has always been the biggest improvement in players. It's just a better understanding ... but we've got more depth. That's huge.

"We were a new coach and a new team [last year]. It was by far the most inexperienced team in the OVC last year, and we're still nowhere close to being an experienced ballclub."

Southeast has only three seniors: Brandon Foust, Mike Rembert and David Johnson.

They were the Redhawks' top three scorers and rebounders last year.

So far this season, only Foust (11.5 points per game) ranks among Southeast's top eight scorers. Only Foust ranks among the Redhawks' top three rebounders.

"We're still a relatively young team," Edgar said. "A lot of times, at the end of a game, Brandon is our only senior on the floor."

While returning sophomore point guard Roderick Pearson is the Redhawks' leading scorer at 12.9 points per game, two of their best players have been newcomers Calvin Williams and Jaycen Herring.

Williams, a long and athletic 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, practiced with Southeast last year, but could not participate in games after transferring from Colorado.

Williams is averaging 10.3 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds, which ranks fourth in the OVC. He is also third in the league with 16 blocked shots. He has two straight double-doubles and four on the season.

Monday, Williams was named the OVC newcomer of the week for the second time this year. He had 31 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks in the wins over Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.

"Calvin is scoring well, rebounding well. He's getting better and better," Edgar said.

Herring, a smooth, athletic 6-5 wing player who transferred in from junior college, is Southeast's No. 2 scorer at 12.3 points per game. He is averaging 15 points over his last six contests.

Herring is sixth in the OVC in field-goal percentage (52.1) and fifth in free-throw percentage (81.8). He is also shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range (8-of-18), which would be fourth in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

"Jaycen continues to show so much versatility," Edgar said.

Added Edgar: "I think depth and balance are the strengths of our team."

Those areas have helped the Redhawks get off to their fast conference start.

But like their coach, the Southeast players are not about to get carried away.

"We feel good about it [being 2-0], but we're definitely not satisfied," Rembert said following Saturday's game. "We just want to stay focused."

Said Pearson: "We're real excited, but we're not satisfied."

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