Griffin could return for final two games

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University senior center Brandon Griffin's injured ankle has responded well to treatment and he could see action during the Indians' final two regular-season games this week.

Griffin, the Indians' third-leading scorer who is first on the team in rebounding and assists, missed the past two games after spraining his ankle in the opening minutes of a Feb. 14 loss at Tennessee State.

Southeast coach Gary Garner said Monday that Griffin could resume practice by Wednesday and his availability for Thursday's contest at Murray State probably won't be determined until close to game time. The Indians end the regular season Saturday at Tennessee-Martin.

"Brandon is getting a little better every day and he might play Thursday," Garner said. "We're missing Brandon, no question about that. We need Brandon in there for his strength inside, whether it's offensively or defensively."

The Indians (11-14, 4-10) remained in contention for a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament with Saturday's 80-77 home victory over Morehead State, but they need to win their final two games to have a chance at making the eight-team field. Any loss this week eliminates the Indians.

Southeast is tied for ninth out of 11 OVC squads. The Indians trail eighth-place Jacksonville State (5-9) by one game, but the Gamecocks own the potential tie-breaker because they beat Southeast in the only meeting between the teams.

To make the tournament over Jacksonville State, Southeast needs to win its final two games and the Gamecocks must lose their last two contests, tonight at home against Samford and Saturday at home against Tennessee State.

Tennessee-State and Samford -- who play each other this week -- are tied for sixth at 6-8, and the Indians can mathematically still finish deadlocked with one of them, but they would fall short in a tie-breaker with Samford because of losing to the Bulldogs in their lone meeting.

Southeast and Tennessee State split their two games, and the next tie-breaker is how each squad did against the league's highest-finishing team. Neither has beaten first-place Austin Peay, but a Southeast win over Murray State, which has locked up at least second place, would give the Indians the tie-breaker over the Tigers, who play at Samford Thursday in addition to their final contest at Jacksonville State.

Eastern Illinois, which is tied with Southeast for ninth place, could also still finish at 6-10 by winning its last two games, Thursday at Tennessee-Martin and Saturday at Murray State. The Indians and Panthers split their two meetings, and there right now would be no clear tie-breaker winner pending how other teams in the league finish.

"A lot of things have to happen, but at least we've still got a shot at getting in the tournament," Garner said.

Of course, Southeast's first order of business is needing to beat powerful Murray State (23-5, 12-2), which will be tough enough, although the Indians did take the Racers to the wire on Feb. 7 in Cape Girardeau before falling 80-74.

"We just have to take it one game at a time," Garner said. "I know it's going to be really difficult to beat Murray State, but our players think they can win."

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