Indians defense feels the pain of Griffin's injury

Monday, February 16, 2004

On the surface, Southeast Missouri State University's men seemed to make up for the loss of senior center Brandon Griffin Saturday night just fine.

Griffin, the Indians' second-leading scorer, leading rebounder and top assist man, suffered a severely sprained ankle in the first four minutes against Tennessee State and spent the rest of the game on the bench.

Griffin had been averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. His replacements for the rest of the contest in Nashville, Tenn. -- senior forward Damarcus Hence and junior forward Reggie Golson -- combined for 25 points and 12 rebounds.

But afterward, the Indians knew just how much they missed the inside presence of the rugged 6-foot-8, 230-pound Griffin, particularly on the defensive end after TSU shot 72.7 percent in the second half to rally for a 90-86 victory.

"I think over the course of 40 minutes, losing Brandon took its toll because we didn't really have an inside presence," Garner said.

Added Hence, "We really missed BG in there. He's a physical player."

Hence and Golson gave the 3,541 fans at the Gentry Center some highlight plays to talk about even if they couldn't quite help the Indians squeeze out a victory.

Hence scored all 14 of his points in the first half as he replaced Golson, who picked up two quick fouls as the original replacement for Griffin. Hence, who only played one minute in the second half because some lingering knee problems flared up, also had six rebounds.

The 6-foot-6 Hence, an explosive leaper, had four dunks, all in the final five minutes of the opening period. Three of the jams were ESPN-highlight worthy as he rammed home offensive rebounds.

"I was just trying to fill BG's shoes, go to the offensive boards, and the ball just bounced in my hands," Hence said.

Golson, who played most of the second half in the middle, had 11 points and six rebounds. The 6-7 Golson, another big-time leaper, also had a monster reverse slam in the first half.

"I just tried to do what I could to make up for the loss of BG," Golson said. "But we really missed him."

What Southeast (10-13, 3-9) really misses right now is a victory. The Indians, who have lost seven of their last eight games, fell back into a three-way tie for last place in the 11-team Ohio Valley Conference. Only the top eight teams qualify for the OVC tournament.

With four regular-season contests remaining, the Indians are only one-half game out of eighth place, so they still have an opportunity to squeeze into the conference tourney. But Southeast is fast running out of time.

"We just have to go back to practice, work as hard as we can and try to win some games," said Hence. "We know that if we can get into the tournament, anything can happen."

The Indians appeared poised for a victory Saturday, leading 31-16 and 33-18 before settling for a 47-39 halftime advantage.

Southeast stayed on top of the Tigers (6-17, 5-7) until Roshaun Bowens hit a 3-pointer with 3:27 remaining for a 77-77 tie. After a Southeast turnover, Jeremy Jackson's basket with 2:52 left put TSU ahead 79-77 for its first lead since 4-3. The Indians could never catch up and TSU made nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:02 to ice the victory.

Bowens, a junior forward, led all scorers with 28 points. He had 33 points during the earlier meeting between the teams, an 81-75 Southeast win in Cape Girardeau.

"They hit some big shots," Golson said.

As for Griffin, he was on crutches following the contest and his status for the rest of the season is uncertain.

"I turned it real bad," Griffin said. "But I'll get double treatments and hopefully I'm not out too long."

Women looking up

While Southeast's men are spiraling downward late in the season, the women are rising fast. Saturday's 87-58 romp at Tennessee State was the fifth straight win for the Otahkians (13-10, 8-4), who are tied for third place in the OVC and just one game out of second.

The Otahkians got 49 points from their bench, led by a career-high 19 points from junior forward Miah Shelford. Among the starters, senior forward Yashika had her fourth straight double-figure scoring performance with 11 points and junior guard Sami Jo Cotton also had 11 points Senior point guard Sarah Costello recorded nine assists.

"We're peaking at the right time and we want to keep it going," Shelford said.

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