Otahkians vow not to overlook 1-20 TSU

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University's Otahkians know how easy it would be to look past a team they destroyed 102-45 about one month ago.

They vow that it won't happen, saying they're going to take Tennessee State seriously when the squads square off at 5 p.m. today in Nashville, Tenn.

"They'll be playing at home, where I'm sure they'll play a lot better," junior guard Sami Jo Cotton said. "We have to be ready for this game like we are for any other game."

Added senior forward Yashika Sidbury, "We've finally started playing pretty good and we want to keep it up. We can't overlook anybody or we'll get beat."

The Otahkians (12-10, 7-4) have won four straight games to climb into a fourth-place tie in the 11-team Ohio Valley Conference. They want to keep things rolling against the last-place Tigers (1-20, 0-11), who lost by 57 points to Southeast in Cape Girardeau on Jan. 15.

"We've finally got something going now and we don't want to slip up," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "We know we can't get to six in a row unless we first get to five, so we're looking at this game as being just as important as any of the others."

Smith did acknowledge that it would be human nature if the Otahkians entered the Gentry Center today expecting to roll over the Tigers, but he and his staff are doing everything they can to prevent that kind of attitude.

"When you start thinking a game's going to be easy is when you get in trouble," Smith said. "We want to keep this thing rolling and we don't want to let Tennessee State make their season by beating us."

The lone win

The Tigers, whose lone win was against Division III Fisk, are as bad statistically as their record indicates. They are averaging an OVC-worst 49.8 points per game while allowing 71.9. They rank last in the league in field-goal shooting (32.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (24.4 percent), and are also last in field-goal defense (45.9 percent) and 3-point defense (38.7 percent).

"They've really had a tough time," Smith admitted.

But the Tigers have played some respectable games against OVC opponents recently, losing to Murray State in overtime, to Tennessee-Martin by just seven points and to Eastern Illinois by only eight points on Thursday night.

"We just need to come out and play like we've been playing," Cotton said. "I think we've come together as a team on and off the court. Things have just started clicking."

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