Redhawks are in a tussle to make OVC tournament

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm certain that Southeast Missouri State men's basketball fans are really bummed out about the Redhawks' free fall after they started out their Ohio Valley Conference schedule 6-0.

That seems like a long, long time ago, as the Redhawks have lost nine of 10 to dip into an eighth-place tie in the 11-team OVC.

It's pretty hard to believe, but if the Redhawks don't get their act together at least a little bit, they'll be in danger of not even making the eight-team OVC tournament, which would be pretty embarrassing.

Yet before people get too down on Southeast (12-14, 7-9) and coach Scott Edgar, remember most of the Redhawks' struggles have come since senior forward Brandon Foust suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Whether or not that's just a coincidence, we'll never know, but the Redhawks have lost seven of eight without Foust, and remember that they played well in the game he was hurt (an 85-82 loss at Austin Peay).

Not to say the Redhawks couldn't -- or shouldn't -- be doing better than they have been since Foust went down, but I don't know too many squads that could smoothly overcome the loss of their best all-around player.

Still, if the Redhawks could cut down just a bit on their turnovers and fouls, they could win some of these games they've been losing.

With three of their final four OVC contests at home, the Redhawks still have a chance to finish strong and at least enter the conference tournament with some momentum.

But they'll certainly have to play better than they have been over the past few weeks, although they had a solid effort during Saturday's 80-69 overtime loss at Eastern Kentucky.

To foul, or not to foul?

That debate has gone on around the country for years regarding situations in the final seconds of games where a team is ahead by three points.

Southeast was in just that position Saturday at Eastern Kentucky as the Redhawks led by three with under seven seconds remaining.

Some coaches try to commit a non-shooting foul so the squad that is behind doesn't have the chance to tie with a 3-pointer. Edgar does not like to foul in that situation.

Like a lot of coaches, I believe Edgar is worried that a player might mess something up, like get called for an intentional foul, or accidently foul while a player is shooting, or foul too early and still leave plenty of time on the clock. Or the opponent could make the first free throw, then put back an intentional miss and still tie.

The decision not to foul burned the Redhawks this time as Eastern Kentucky hit a 3-pointer with seven-tenths of a second remaining to force overtime.

Personally, I would always choose to foul in that situation, but I'm not going to rip Edgar just because I don't agree with him.

It's a personal choice and I would guess that more than half the nation's coaches take Edgar's side on the subject.

It seems like it would be simple to foul in that situation, but watch games on TV around the country. Hardly any coaches foul late, even the most highly regarded ones, I guess for those very reasons I mentioned. They're a heck of a lot smarter than I am when it comes to basketball.

The hoop news is not all bad on the Southeast front.

While the men continue to flounder, the women continue to flourish.

Saturday's 72-67 win at Eastern Kentucky was the Redhawks' eighth straight victory, and their 13th triumph in the past 14 games.

Southeast (17-6, 12-2) is undefeated in nine OVC road contests as it leads the league. That's virtually unheard of for any conference.

And what made the Redhawks' two most recent victories more impressive -- they won 50-48 at Morehead State Thursday -- is that they prevailed without leading scorer and rebounder Missy Whitney.

Whitney missed both games with an elbow injury, although coach John Ishee expects her to return for Thursday's showdown with second-place Eastern Illinois at the Show Me Center.

With all but one of their conference road games out of the way -- Southeast closes with five of its final six at home -- I would be surprised if the Redhawks don't nail down their third straight OVC regular-season title.

That was some kind of performance Saturday by several members of the Southeast men's track and field team as they went up against the best in the country.

Competing in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York City -- billed as the nation's premier indoor track and field event -- Southeast captured two titles.

Senior All-American Miles Smith showed he is totally healthy by winning the 400 meters after missing last season with an injury.

Smith, who ran the nation's second-fastest time (46.61 seconds), should be primed for a strong run at a national championship.

Smith also led the Redhawks' 1,600-relay squad to first place, just ahead of Big 12 power Texas, with a sizzling time of 3:10.99.

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Red Williams, who passed away in Colorado at the age of 75.

Red was the head athletic trainer at Southeast for more than 20 years, from the early 1960s through the early 1980s.

I started working at the Southeast Missourian after Red retired, but he continued to live in Cape Girardeau and I got to know him well.

Red, a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, was just a good, down-to-earth person whom I respected.

My condolences go out to his family and friends.

Sean Bard of Cape Girardeau was recently named the Southwestern Athletic Conference preseason player of the year by Collegiate Baseball Magazine.

Bard, a senior first baseman at Division I Mississippi Valley State, led the Delta Devils in almost every offensive category last season.

A Central High School graduate, Bard made first-team all-SWAC last year after transferring from Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo. He spent the summer playing in the prestigious Alaskan Collegiate Baseball League.

I wrote an article recently about former Southeast offensive lineman Dan Connolly, who spent this past season as a member of the New England Patriots' practice squad.

Well, I only found out shortly after the Super Bowl that the Patriots have another Southeast connection.

Jon Robinson, a defensive lineman for Southeast in the mid-to-late 1990s, has been a college scout for New England since 2001 and has already earned two Super Bowl rings.

A native of Union City, Tenn., Robinson is one of about 10 evaluators of college football players for the Patriots' organization.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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