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Indians get another shot at OVC leaders
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State University's Indians saw last week just what all the fuss surrounding Tennessee Tech is about.
Tonight, the reeling Indians (3-17, 1-8 Ohio Valley Conference) will see the surging Golden Eagles (15-4, 8-0) again in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at the Eblen Center.
"They're a tremendous basketball team, without a doubt the best team in our conference," said Southeast coach Gary Garner of the first-place Eagles. "I know it's difficult in any conference to go undefeated, but they're a team that definitely has a chance to do it. They're that good for this level."
Garner said he considers Tech to be the best squad Southeast has faced this year. Still, the Indians gave the Eagles a battle on Jan. 24 at the Show Me Center and led at halftime before Tech used a strong second half to pull away for a 75-62 victory.
The Indians gave the Eagles fits with center Drew DeMond in the game, but he suffered a sprained knee and ankle late in the first half and missed the rest.
DeMond has not played in the two games since, including Thursday's 72-65 loss at Tennessee State that began Southeast's current two-game road trip. He is questionable for tonight.
"I'm hoping I can play," said DeMond, who sat on the bench in street clothes during the Tennessee State game. "Hopefully I'll keep getting better."
Garner knows having DeMond, the Indians' third-leading scorer and leading rebounder and shot-blocker, in the lineup is important.
"We need Drew in there. He really helps our inside game," Garner said. "His injuries are pretty much a day to day thing and we really won't know if he can play until Saturday (today). Hopefully he'll be able to go."
The Indians will need as much inside strength as possible to try and slow down Tech junior forward Damien Kinloch, a South Carolina transfer who has established himself as the OVC's dominant big man during his rookie season with the Eagles.
Kinloch, a quick, agile and strong 6-foot-8, 230-pounder, is Tech's leading scorer at nearly 17 points per game and he ranks second in the OVC in rebounding with almost nine a contest.
"He's an excellent player and he gives them a dimension that the other teams in our league don't have," Garner said. "Even when he's not scoring, you have to concentrate on him so much that he opens things up for their other players, especially their outside shooters."
That's exactly what happened to the Indians in the earlier meeting against the Eagles. While Kinloch was fairly silent in the first half and for the early part of the second half, Tech guards Brent Jolly and Cameron Crisp caught fire from 3-point range early in the final period to give the Eagles control of the contest.
Junior forward Tim Scheer, the Indians' second-leading scorer (14.2 ppg) and tops Southeast in scoring during conference play (14.8 ppg), insists Southeast shouldn't be taken for granted.
"Everybody is playing hard. We're so close, but we just keep coming up a little bit short," said Scheer. "We're just going to keep fighting and hopefully turn things around."
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