Indians reeling on road

Sunday, February 1, 2004

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Nothing Samford did Saturday surprised Southeast Missouri State University.

But the Bulldogs did things so well, there was apparently nothing the Indians could do about it. The result was a relatively easy 70-58 Samford victory that concluded a nightmarish four-game road swing for Southeast, which fell to 9-10 overall and 2-6 in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Samford, one of the OVC's two first-year teams, continued to be among the league's early surprises. The Bulldogs, 10-9 overall, are in third place at 5-3 in the OVC.

"We have to keep our heads up," Indians senior Brandon Griffin said. "We have to keep coming out and practicing hard. We probably don't have a chance to win the conference, but we still have the tournament."

Added senior forward Damarcus Hence, looking ahead to the Indians' upcoming three straight home games: "We have to try to hang in there and bounce back at home to get some wins."

Southeast has lost four consecutive games, all away from home. Saturday's performance was actually solid in the eyes of coach Gary Garner, certainly much better than Thursday's effort during a 79-64 loss at Jacksonville State.

But Samford's Princeton-style offense -- utilizing constant motion, screens and cuts to create either layups of open 3-point shots -- was run to near-perfection by the Bulldogs, who had just six turnovers and only one of those in the first half.

"I'm disappointed we lost, but I'm not upset," Garner said. "The other night at Jacksonville State, was just stunk and I was embarrassed by the way we played.

"Today, I thought we played well. Samford just played a great game. Their offense is so hard to defend against, especially the first time you see it. You can't simulate it in practice. The players don't realize how hard it is to play against."

They did after the contest.

"It's real tough," Griffin said. "They're well organized. They came out and executed all those cuts. The first time playing them, it's hard to contain."

Added Hence, "They're a tough team to play against. All their back cuts really killed us. They executed to a 'T.' "

Samford, fifth nationally in field-goal shooting at 51 percent, hit their average as they made 25 of 49, including 12 of 21 (57.1 percent) in the second half. The Bulldogs also rank fifth nationally in 3-point shooting at 41.3 percent. They were 10 of 27 against the Indians, good for 37 percent.

Phillip Ramelli, a mobile 6-foot-10 senior center who scores inside and out, led the Bulldogs with 21 points, including three of seven from 3-point range.

Sophomore forward J. Robert Merritt hit four of seven 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Senior guard Eddie Harper had 11 points.

"I think this was one of our better games," Ramelli said. "Six turnovers in itself makes it one of our better games."

Griffin hit eight of 13 shots and led the Indians with 17 points. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists to pace the squad in both categories.

Junior guard Derek Winans made four of seven 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Hence hit four of six 3-pointers and added 12 points off the bench.

Southeast had respectable figures of 44.9 percent shooting (22 of 49), 41.7 percent 3-point accuracy (10 of 24) and 11 turnovers -- yet still was soundly defeated.

"You take away the four or five shots we just hoisted up late when the game was over, and we shoot about 50 percent," Garner said. "We played OK, but Samford may look back on it and say that's the best game they've played."

The Indians held two brief early leads at 2-0 and 4-3. Samford scored five straight points to go ahead 8-4 and the Bulldogs were pretty much in control the rest of the way.

From a 17-16 advantage, the Bulldogs used an 8-0 run to surge ahead 25-16 and they led 36-26 at halftime.

After falling behind 38-26 at the outset of the second half, Southeast pulled to within four points twice, at 38-34 and 40-36. But an 11-0 Samford burst made it 51-36 and the Bulldogs' lead never dipped under eight points the rest of the way.

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