Finals give way to a tough road stretch

Friday, December 13, 2002

I'd like to thank all of the fans who braved the terrible weather we had last Wednesday night to attend our game with Oakland City. The players, coaches and staff appreciate your dedication to come out and support us even in the bad weather .

We had a good crowd for the Southern Illinois game Saturday night. The Salukis have an excellent basketball team that is truly one of the top 25 teams in the nation. Despite the fact we lost, I was proud of the way our players competed. I was pleased with the effort, but not the outcome.

Brandon Griffin played well against SIU and he was the Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week for the second week in a row. Playing against a very athletic and physical team like SIU, Brandon had 22 points and 11 rebounds, which is outstanding.

For the season, Brandon averages a double-double with 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. We recruited Brandon to give us instant help on the boards and he has provided the rebounding we were looking for. He has also shown an ability to score around the basket, and that will be a big plus for us in the OVC.

This is finals week on our campus, and we had short one-hour practices each day until the finals were completed Thursday. Finals-week practices are tough because the players have their minds on finals and they stay up late at night studying for the finals. I've always found, though, that it is good for the players to get away from the books for a brisk one-hour workout each day.

We are heading into a very tough portion of our schedule with four non-conference games before we open OVC play Jan. 4. Three of the four games are on the road.

We play at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Saturday night and then play at Arkansas-Little Rock Tuesday night. We are at home Saturday, Dec. 21, for a game with Southwest Missouri before closing the 2002 portion of the schedule with a Sunday afternoon game Dec. 29 at Creighton, a nationally ranked team that's second to Duke in the RPI ratings.

We certainly have our work cut out for us. UMKC is struggling with an 0-5 record but they have played good teams tough. The Kangaroos have one of the nation's leading scorers in junior Michael Watson, who averages 31.4 points per game. Watson, 6-foot-1, is a tremendous offensive player who puts up a lot of shots.

In fact, in the five games played, Watson has launched 129 shots, including 69 threes. He shoots .449 from three and .759 from the line. No one player can guard a player like Watson, but we will come up with a defensive scheme that will hopefully keep him from really getting on a roll during our game.

Arkansas-Little Rock is an excellent basketball team that returns a lot of players from last season when they beat us at the Show Me Center. They lost at Minnesota by only two points in overtime Tuesday and the Golden Gophers have been nationally ranked this season.

I am pleased with the progress our team is making. It is important that we get Reggie Golson healthy and ready to play prior to the start of the OVC season. He had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 14 minutes played in the Oakland City game, but his knees were so sore after the game that he did not play against SIU and he is doubtful for the UMKC game.

Gary Garner is the men's basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: