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Griffin's glass act helps SE to 92-52 rout
The season hasn't even started yet and Brandon Griffin is already a crowd favorite at the Show Me Center.
Griffin had the nearly 1,900 fans squarely in his corner Friday night as Southeast Missouri State University's men's basketball team wrapped up its exhibition schedule with a 92-52 rout of the Dream Builders.
Griffin, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound junior-college transfer recruited in large part to shore up some woeful rebounding that helped cause a 6-22 record last season, has been as good as advertised in the Indians' two exhibition games.
After going for 10 points and 10 rebounds during a 24-point win over Missouri-Rolla last Saturday, Griffin hustled and battled his way to 19 points and 17 rebounds -- including 11 offensive boards -- Friday as the Indians held a commanding 63-36 edge on the glass.
"We had 24 offensive rebounds tonight. We probably didn't have that many all last year," Southeast coach Gary Garner said with a grin. "We had one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation last year. As you know, that's one of the things we wanted to take care of.
"There were a lot of things we liked about Brandon, but we really liked the way he gets the ball off the boards."
Griffin, who averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last year at Southwest Mississippi Community College, relishes his primary role with the Indians.
"Coach recruited me to rebound and that's what I want to do," he said. "It's just working hard and going to get the ball."
And if that hard work results in not only rebounds but also plenty of adoration from the fans, then all the better.
"It makes me feel pretty good," said a smiling Griffin, referring to the reception he has gotten in the exhibition games. "I notice it."
Griffin's teammates have certainly noticed the way he has been rebounding, not just in the exhibition season but also during practice.
"He hits the boards hard in practice and gets everybody going," said sophomore guard Brett Hale, who scored 18 points Friday.
Added a laughing junior forward Damarcus Hence, who had 18 points Friday after scoring 23 against Missouri-Rolla, "He's got me wanting to go in there and get rebounds."
Hence, who looks like he could be in store for a breakout season after having an up-and-down career so far, said confidence is a big thing with him right now.
"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable and confident," Hence said. "I feel like I'm ready to have a big year."
Sophomore guard Derek Winans scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Hale also pulled down eight rebounds while senior guard Demetrius King added seven, Hence six, sophomore center Adam Crader five and sophomore guard Kevin Roberts five as just about everybody shared in the dominance on the glass.
Roberts also dished out 10 assists as the Indians had 20 assists to just nine turnovers.
"I thought a lot of players did well," Garner said.
While Garner was pleased with the performance, he was tempered somewhat because he realizes the Indians faced a worn-out team. The Dream Builders, primarily made up of former Division II college stars, played in Minnesota Wednesday night and in St. Joseph, Mo., Thursday night.
"Overall I was pleased. Our effort was really good," Garner said. "But it's hard to evaluate. I know they were tired and they really didn't guard us hard."
Still, Garner added, "I'm really encouraged. I feel good. Our chemistry is really good right now."
Hence concurred, saying, "Everybody gets along and we're playing well together."
The Indians open the season next Friday at Arkansas State.
"We've got to keep working and get a lot better between now and next Friday," Garner said. "That's going to be a really tough opening game for us."Noteworthy
***Norman Prather, a 6-4 guard at Mineral Area College who had been expected to sign with the Indians this week, still has not faxed his letter of intent to the Southeast coaching staff.
But Prather still reportedly plans to sign with the Indians, most likely Monday during a ceremony at the junior college in Park Hills, Mo. The early signing period ends Wednesday.