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Rebounds send SE to defeat in opener
JONESBORO, Ark. -- It didn't take long to determine the primary reason for Southeast Missouri State University's season-opening loss.
Coach Gary Garner pointed directly at the rebounding numbers as he scanned the boxscore after Arkansas State's 83-71 victory Friday in front of 5,029 fans at the Convocation Center.
ASU held a 41-31 edge on the glass -- including a 24-11 advantage on the offensive boards that had Garner particularly frustrated.
"We didn't play that bad except for one area of the game," Garner said. "We shot 52 percent from the field, defensively we played pretty good, although we turned it over too much."
The Indians had 18 turnovers.
"But we just got totally dominated on the boards -- 24 offensive rebounds, you're not going to win doing that," he said. "I'm not disappointed other than the offensive rebounding."
ASU's offensive rebounding dominance helped lead to 20 more field-goal attempts than Southeast had. So even though the visiting Indians shot a higher percentage, ASU was not hurt by its 41.7-percent accuracy.
"We just gave them so many more opportunities," Garner said. "You can play really good defense, but what does it matter when they're getting the ball back so many times?"
Kim Adams and Paris London, ASU's strong and active frontline duo, did the most board damage.
Adams, a 6-foot-7 junior, pulled down 15 rebounds, 10 of them offensive. London, a 6-8 Memphis transfer, grabbed 11 boards, nine coming on the offensive end.
The 19 combined offensive rebounds by Adams and London nearly doubled Southeast's entire output.
"That's a big part of our game," Adams said. "People don't believe we have an inside presence, mostly outside shooting."
It didn't help Southeast's rebounding effort that two of the Indians' key inside players -- 6-7 forwards Tim Scheer and Reggie Golson -- never got off the bench Friday because of injuries.
Scheer, a senior who was Southeast's second-leading scorer last year, has a strained calf muscle. Golson, a junior-college transfer, began practicing Thursday after he missed virtually the entire preseason following knee surgery.
"Those two would have really helped us on the boards," Southeast sophomore guard Derek Winans said. "We scored enough, but the rebounding hurt us. I thought we came out and played hard with a lot of effort, but they got too many offensive rebounds."
It also didn't help Southeast that the Indians' only true inside force now -- junior center Brandon Griffin -- played less than five minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls.
Rebounding aside, the Indians had quite a few positives, particularly the continued scoring prowess of junior forward Damarcus Hence.
Hence, who averaged a little more than six points per game last year, stood out in Southeast's two exhibition contests and he continued to shine Friday, scoring a career-high 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Hence also tied Griffin for team-high rebounding honors with eight.
"It's good to play like that, but it would have been a lot better if we would have won the game," Hence said.
Winans added 13 points and sophomore guard Brett Hale contributed 12.
ASU placed four players in double figures, led by guard Tevoris Thompson with 18. Thompson, an explosive junior-college transfer, scored 13 first-half points, including 11 straight during one stretch.
London scored 16 points and Adams had 10 as each recorded a double-double. Guard Tony Brown had 14 points, all coming in the first half.
"I've been out a year" after transferring "and I don't think I played that well, but if this is a bad game, that's all right," London said. "I think we have a pretty good team and I think SEMO has a pretty good team. They're tough and their guards can shoot."
The first half, which ended with ASU ahead 42-35, was close most of the way, Southeast hanging tough thanks to 15 points from Hence and eight from Winans.
Southeast held several early four-point leads and was tied 29-29 after a Hence 3-pointer with 7:26 remaining. But ASU scored the next seven points to go ahead 36-29 and had fairly secure control the rest of the way.
Leading 38-35, ASU scored the final four points of the half, including a dunk at the buzzer by Adams.
ASU held a 23-13 rebounding edge in the opening 20 minutes, including a 12-2 advantage on the offensive boards as Griffin played less than five minutes in the period.
ASU continued to surge at the outset of the second half and built the game's biggest lead of 68-50 on Jon Beck's 15-footer with 10:27 remaining. Beck, a senior guard from Scott City High School, scored all seven of his points in the second half.
Southeast hung tough and refused to give in to a blowout, even making things semi-interesting as a Hence tip at the 3:03 mark pulled the Indians to within 76-67. But ASU answered with four straight points and coasted to victory.
"They're a well-coached team and defensively they're so sound," ASU coach Dickey Nutt said. "It's great to get a win."
Garner would have also liked a victory, but he said he's far from distressed as Southeast prepares for Monday's home opener against NAIA Central Methodist.
"I'm not discouraged at all," he said. "You're always disappointed when you lose, but I thought we played well other than in one area."
And that one area made all the difference.
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