Redhawks open homestand in search of first OVC win
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Perhaps playing an Ohio Valley Conference opponent to the wire for the first time this season will help the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team finally get over the hump.
The Redhawks hope that's the case as they begin a four-game OVC homestand tonight against Eastern Illinois. All four contests will be played in a week's span.
"We've got four home games in a row, all of them winnable games," Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said. "We have to get that first one and take it one game at a time."
Southeast is coming off Monday's 71-66 loss at Jacksonville State in which the Redhawks cut a 21-point second-half deficit to three before they fell short.
That came after the Redhawks had lost their first three conference games by 11, 24 and 27 points.
"There were a lot of bright spots in the second half," Roman said. "I told the guys that was our best second half of the season. I think that's going to carry over [tonight]."
Added junior center Calvin Williams: "We showed glimpses of what we're capable of doing."
Still, the end result was the same, as the Redhawks fell to 3-12 overall and 0-4 in OVC play. Southeast has lost four straight and nine of its last 10.
Roman knows Southeast needs to start putting together some wins or risk falling into a huge hole in its bid to make the OVC tournament.
"It's crucial," Roman said.
Only the top eight finishers in the 10-team league qualify. Southeast is in last place.
"Even with our limited numbers, we can still get it done if we do the little things," Roman said. "We have the talent to get it done."
EIU (5-9, 2-2) appears significantly improved from a year ago, when the Panthers finished next-to-last in the OVC and went 7-22 overall.
The Panthers have not finished higher than eighth in the conference in the past five seasons.
EIU has been bolstered by the return to health of junior guard Romain Martin.
Martin, the OVC's co-freshman of the year in 2006-07, was limited most of last season by a foot injury. He is averaging 16.7 points to rank seventh in the league and is shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.
Other double-figure scorers for the Panthers are junior guard T.J. Marion (11.4 ppg) and sophomore guard Tyler Laser (10.6 ppg).
Laser is the OVC's top 3-pointer shooter at 48.1 percent.
"Martin looks fresh," Roman said. "I think they have a little better team chemistry this year. They're playing well right now."
Williams continued his monster season on Southeast's recent two-game road trip, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Williams is the OVC's No. 5 scorer and No. 2 rebounder with averages of 17.5 points and eight boards this season. He is second in blocked shots (28) and fifth in field-goal percentage (52.8).
"Calvin is having a very good season," Roman said. "He's a great athlete for this level."
The Redhawks have been hurt most of the season by slow starts. Roman said that is something they must reverse to right the ship.
"I've thought about that a lot," said Roman when asked if there is anything special Southeast can do to get off to better starts. "We need to change something. I don't know what it will be, but it will be something."
Southeast also has been hurt by a lack of depth.
The Redhawks began the season with nine available scholarship players, but junior guard Jimmy Drew has not seen any action yet because of a foot injury.
Drew said several weeks ago that he hoped to be back soon, but there is no timetable for his return.
Junior wing Johnny Hill missed the last three games with a foot injury. Roman said he hoped to have Hill back in uniform tonight.