It is tough to be 0-3, but I know we are improving.
We just have to take it a practice at a time and a game at a time until we get our full compliment of players back and as we mature as a basketball team.
Our team is working very hard in practice because they want to get better. I thought we had an inspired effort at Southwest Missouri State. SMS has a very talented basketball team, but our team came out focused and ready to play and led by as many as eight points in the first half. We had a six-point lead with under 10 seconds remaining in the half, but Demetrius King, who had played very well, missed a three and they came down and got a shot down at the buzzer to trail by only four at the half.
They made a run early in the second half and gained the lead and held on to post the win. Our team never gave up, though. We got to within seven points with under a minute left in the game and I knew our players still felt we had a shot. SMS got the win, but our team learned that if it plays hard and the shots fall, we can play with some very talented teams.
As is often the case, our inexperienced team did not come out with the same intensity and enthusiasm at the Show Me Center Tuesday night when we hosted a very good Arkansas-Little Rock team. Our team simply wasn't ready to play at the level of Arkansas-Little Rock and the result was that we spotted them a 10-0 lead and although we fought back to get in the game, we were never able to overcome being down 10-0.
Like it or not, the fact is that inexperienced teams are inconsistent. It is not because of a lack of effort or enthusiasm, but rather from a lack of experience on how to get mentally prepared for a game and how to adapt to situations in games. Hopefully as the season progresses, our team will grow and mature.
Midway in the second half we cut the lead to only one point and had the ball, but we turned it over and they were able to use their athletic ability to start a 7-0 run that again put them up by eight points. We had 19 turnovers in the game and many of the turnovers weren't forced, just committed by inexperienced players. We have to cut down on our turnovers and I know we will.
Derek Winans had a great offensive game against UALR. He had 29 points on 11 of 18 from the field, 4 of 8 from three and 3 of 3 from the line. This follows an 18-point effort in his first game of the season against SMS. He deserved the OVC Rookie of the Week.
Winans is a real warrior on the court and he is a very good basketball player. Like his teammates, though, he needs to continue to improve his defense.
With our young players, it is tougher to learn defense than it is to learn our offense. We just need more practice time to develop our team defense.
Although very disappointed to be 0-3, I am encouraged that we are getting better.
Western Illinois will bring a 3-1 record to the Show Me Center Saturday night and will be another test for our basketball team that really needs a win. Included in the Leatherneck victories are a rough road win at Eastern Kentucky and a home win over Drake.
Don't give up on our team. We are slowly but surely getting back our full roster of players and we are improving. Damarcus Hence will play for the first time Saturday night and his athletic ability should give us a boost.
I look forward to seeing you at the Show Me Center Saturday night.
Gary Garner is the men's basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University.