Indians look for a boost at MSU

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Trying times have led to a lack of confidence among Southeast Missouri State University's basketball Indians -- hardly an ideal scenario as the team heads to Murray State today for an Ohio Valley Conference rivalry.

"We're really down right now," said Southeast coach Gary Garner Friday morning, a little more than 12 hours after the Indians were spanked 89-73 at Tennessee-Martin on Thursday. "I'm hoping playing a big rivalry game like this will help get us back up."

The Indians (3-13, 1-4 OVC) need all the motivation they can muster when they take on the Racers (8-9, 2-3) in a 7 p.m. game at the Regional Special Events Center in Murray, Ky. The game will be televised by WPSD-TV.

Of course, the Racers aren't brimming with self-assurance these days either. The perennial OVC powerhouse got off to a 7-3 start, which included a victory at DePaul, but they've lost six of their last seven games.

"They're struggling a little. They're 8-9, but they're better than that," Garner said. "They're big and they've got some great athletes."

MSU is led by Justin Burdine, an explosive senior guard who ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 18.8 points per game and who does his damage coming off the bench.

Also in double figures for the Racers are junior forwards Antione Whelchel (11.2) and James Singleton (10.6). The 6-8 Singleton is the OVC's No. 2 rebounder (9.4) and ranks third in the conference in field-goal percentage (61.5).

The 6-5 Whelchel is fifth in the OVC in rebounding (7.5) as the Racers outrebound their opponents by more than five boards per game, which doesn't bode well for a Southeast squad that is losing the board battle by six a contest.

"They really rebound the ball, which has been a problem for us. They're probably the best offensive rebounding team in the league," Garner said. "Singleton and Whelchel can both score and rebound, Burdine can just jump up and shoot it from anywhere and they've got the 7-footer (Andi Hornig) in the middle."

Southeast has not only had problems inside this season but the Indians have struggled with quick, athletic teams that pressure the ball. An example was Thursday's game at Tennessee-Martin, where Southeast had 12 first-half turnovers and finished with 19.

"We don't really much up well with teams like Murray State and Tennessee-Martin," Garner said. "We're just not a good ball-handling team and we have problems with turnovers. In conference games, we've got 88 turnovers to 56 for our opponents and it's just impossible to overcome that."

The Indians continue to be led by redshirt freshman guard Derek Winans, who scored a team-high 17 points against Tennessee-Martin. Winans ranks sixth in the OVC in scoring (15.5), seventh in assists (2.9), ninth in free-throw percentage (80.9) and ninth in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.6).

Overall, Winans is shooting 45.8 percent from the field, which is impressive for a guard, and he is the Indians' third-leading rebounder (4.2).

mmishow@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 132

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