SE will take short break for holidays

Wednesday, December 19, 2001



I hope you are all enjoying a happy holiday season. Holidays are sometimes difficult for athletic teams. While other students are at home with family and friends, our basketball team will be practicing to get ready for the Southern Illinois game in Carbondale this Saturday at 3:05 p.m.

It is a good time to devote all energies to basketball because there really isn't much going on around campus. We will practice once or twice daily until the SIU game. After the game we will release the players until the evening of Dec. 26, when we will begin preparation for the Lincoln game at the Show Me Center on Dec. 29. This will give all the players an opportunity to go home for a few days and I know they will enjoy that time.

I am disappointed we weren't able to give you a victory Monday night because I feel it is a game we could have won and maybe should have won. We shot the ball well and played well at times, but we just didn't play with any confidence and Mississippi Valley seized the opportunity, played with great confidence and made some shots that stopped every run we made in the second half.

We didn't practice Tuesday, but I met individually with every player, emphasizing that each player has to play to his strength for us to continue to improve as a team. When you are losing, the natural tendency is for players to try to do too much. We have to capitalize on the strength of each player and blend those strengths into a team.

I continue to be very pleased with the play of freshmen Derek Winans and Brett Hale. I really couldn't ask any more from two freshmen. Derek leads us in scoring and assists and is third in rebounding. He has increased his field-goal percentage to .457 and he is shooting .783 from the line.

Brett is also shooting the ball well with .429 from the field and .909 from the line. His shooting percentage is dramatically better when you take away his first collegiate game when he was 1-for-13 from the field and 0-for-7 from three. Since then, he is shooting .520 from the field and .368 from three. We have to find a way to get him more shots. He didn't take a shot at St. Louis Saturday and he had only four shots Monday.

Sophomore Damarcus Hence is starting to get his offense going. He had 10 points Saturday and 15 points Monday.

We face a very formidable task Saturday at SIU. I really think the Salukis are a top 20 team. They beat Indiana and Iowa State because they are better than those teams. In last weeks' RPI rankings, they were ninth in the nation and they are 27th in this week's AP poll.

SIU has all the ingredients to be a great team. They will be the best team we play this season.

We have to cut down on our turnovers and rebound the basketball in order to have a chance to play with SIU. No one expects us to win the game and so there shouldn't be any pressure. We just need to go over there, relax, compete and have fun. We'll see what happens.

Lincoln will be at the Show Me Center on Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. and they have a high scoring team that includes six Division I transfers. After Lincoln we go on the road for games at Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois. The EIU game will be the beginning of the Ohio Valley Conference season and that is always exciting. It will be a new start for us.

Again, Happy Holidays.

Gary Garner is the head basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University

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