Indians have no margin for error in final two games

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University played one of its best games of the season on Feb. 7 when it nearly upset Murray State at the Show Me Center.

In order to keep alive its hopes of qualifying for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Southeast will need a similar performance tonight -- only this time a near-miss won't be good enough when the Indians (11-14, 4-10) and Racers (23-5, 12-2) square off at the Regional Special Events Center in Murray, Ky.

With two games remaining -- including Saturday at Tennessee-Martin -- Southeast is tied for ninth in the 11-team OVC, and only the top eight qualify for the tournament. The Indians not only need to win their final two contests, they also need Tennessee State to lose its last two games in order to make the field. The Tigers still face tough tests at Samford and Jacksonville State.

"It doesn't look that good, but all we can do is keep playing hard, win our last two games and hopefully get some help," junior Reggie Golson said.

Golson has been one of the Indians' late-season bright spots in an otherwise disappointing campaign that has featured eight OVC losses by a total of 27 points.

An athletic 6-foot-7 forward, Golson missed all but one game last season as a knee injury forced him to take a medical redshirt. This season, Golson missed several weeks of early practice with an ankle injury that set him back most of the campaign.

Pressed into service when center Brandon Griffin went down three games ago with a sprained ankle, Golson has thrived and given Southeast fans -- not to mention Garner -- glimpses of what could be in store next season.

Golson, averaging 6.1 points on the season, has scored 50 points in the last three games, including 25 during Saturday's 80-77 win over Morehead State.

"You're starting to see the offensive player Reggie can be. He has all the tools," Garner said. "It's good to think about having him next year. I think he'll really have a good year."

As for this year, the season will definitely end Saturday -- and still might anyway -- unless the Indians can find a way to knock off the high-flying Racers, who have clinched second place in the OVC.

Murray State, which leads the OVC in scoring (81 ppg), is lead by explosive senior forward Cuthbert Victor, who is averaging a double-double with 14.9 points and an OVC-leading 10.5 rebounds per game. He is shooting 62.4 percent from the field.

"They're a great team, with some tremendous players," Southeast junior guard Derek Winans said. "We played real tough against them last time but came up a little bit short. We'll have to play even better this time."

On Feb. 7 in Cape Girardeau, the Indians led most of the game -- including by 12 points at halftime -- but the Racers used a late 15-0 run to take control and win 80-74.

"I don't think there's any question they finally wore us down," Garner said. "They've got a heck of a basketball team, probably the most talented team in the OVC even though Austin Peay has won the regular season.

"I thought we played very well against them the last time and we had some wide open shots at the end of the game that just didn't go in. We'll need to play another very good game to have a chance."

And to keep their OVC tournament hopes alive.

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