We face a very formidable task tonight against a very good Vanderbilt team. The Commodores beat nationally ranked Western Kentucky Sunday and they come into tonight's game with a 5-2 record.
Vanderbilt plays in the always tough Southeastern Conference, which is annually one of the best conferences in college basketball.
The Commodores are used to playing in extremely big games against some of the nation's better teams. I'm sure they won't be overly motivated to go against our 0-4 team and that could work to our advantage. I know we will compete and we'll just have to see what happens.
At Vanderbilt, the benches are on the ends of the floor and that will be a new experience for me as a coach. The benches were on the ends at old Brewer Field House at the University of Missouri when I was a freshman player, but that was a long time ago. You get an entirely different perspective watching a game from the end. It will be different.
I didn't feel like we played as well as I thought we would against a solid, well coached Western Illinois team Saturday night. I didn't like our shot selection. We were rushing our shots, which is a natural reaction when you fall behind. It takes great personal discipline to turn down a marginal shot and continue to work for a better shot when you are behind. We have to have the patience to get the ball inside.
Tim Scheer had a good game for us. He had 19 points and 11 rebounds and really went to the boards hard. As a team, we were even on the boards and that is an improvement. We have been working on our rebounding and we need to continue to work at it to get better.
Western Illinois hurt us by being more physical inside. We simply aren't strong enough physically inside. We are going to have to change the way we guard big, strong guys inside with more double teams and inside help.
Our team is continuing to work hard. Everyone is frustrated by the fact that we are 0-4, but we have to hang together as a basketball family. This is a time when the family aspect really has to come into play. We have to stick together and keep our enthusiasm. The wins will come but in tough times our players have to stand up for each other.
We have to continue to mature as a team. I am always honest with our players. We talk about how we can get better as a team. Because of our lack of depth, we have no margin for error. We have to play nearly perfect games and this is tough for an inexperienced team.
Following the Vanderbilt game we have North Alabama at the Show Me Center Saturday night. North Alabama has a very good Division II basketball program that has struggled a little early this season. I last coached against North Alabama in the first round of the Division II Elite Eight at Louisville, Ky., the year my Fort Hays State team won the national title. They are well coached and will be another test for us Saturday night.
I've written a little about both Vanderbilt and North Alabama, but my real emphasis right now is making our team better. It is easy to compete and practice when you are winning. The real test is when you are losing. I can assure you we will compete!
Gary Garner is the head basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University