Indians face talented Trojan team on the road.
By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian
Southeast Missouri State University has already played some talented teams this year and the Indians still have plenty of formidable opponents on their schedule.
But Southeast coach Gary Garner believes Arkansas-Little Rock shouldn't take a back seat to any of his squad's foes, which means the Indians (4-4) will face quite a challenge tonight when they take on the Trojans (5-3) in a 7:05 p.m. tipoff at Alltel Arena in Little Rock.
"They are very talented and athletic. I feel like they'll be one of the better teams we play," Garner said.
Particularly impressive to Garner was the Trojans' recent performance at nationally-ranked Minnesota as they lost by two points in overtime -- and it took a questionable call late in regulation for the Gophers to avoid an upset.
"I don't think they can be as good as Southern Illinois, but watching the Minnesota tape, they look better than Southern Illinois," Garner said. "They'll be right up there with teams like Southern Illinois, Creighton, Tulane, Tennessee Tech, Murray State. They'll be really good."
UALR has made quite a turnaround under third-year coach Porter Moser, who inherited a squad that was coming off a 4-24 season. Moser led the Trojans to an 18-11 record in his first year, followed by another 18-11 mark last season.
With their top six players returning from a year ago, the Trojans are expected to challenge powerhouse Western Kentucky for the Sun Belt Conference championship.
"I really like their team," Garner said. "They're talented at every position."
The Trojans' guards are particularly impressive as they generally start three backcourt players and bring perhaps their top guard -- Nick Zachary -- off the bench, as was the case last year.
Zachary, a 6-foot-3 junior, averaged a team-best 16 points per game last season. He's scoring 12.2 points per contest this year.
Jibrahn Ike, a 6-2 senior, is averaging a team-high 14 points per game and is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range (13 for 28) as the Trojans hit 42 percent of their 3-pointers as a team.
Mark Green, a 6-2 senior, contributes 9.9 points per contest, as does 6-10, 245-pound junior Jake Yancey, the squad's top inside threat. Yancey leads the Trojans in rebounding with 5.2 per game.
"They have very good guards. Zachary and Ike are their best players. They could play anywhere in the country," Garner said. "Yancey is their best inside player. He's aggressive and has some good moves."
The Trojans like to press, but the Indians have fared well against pressure so far this season, so Garner isn't all that worried about it. What does concern him is trying to slow down the potent Trojans.
"I think we'll be all right against the press. The two teams that pressed us, Arkansas State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, we've really handled it pretty good," Garner said. "Our biggest concern is stopping them. We have to control the game offensively. We can't have a high-scoring game. We have to be patient, but we still have to attack."
Southeast, which has not played with its full roster virtually all season, could be especially shorthanded tonight.
Starting guard Brett Hale, who suffered a back injury Saturday at Missouri-Kansas City, is doubtful. Reserve guard/forward Demetrius King, who has had several strong games in a row off the bench, sprained an ankle in practice Monday and is questionable.
In addition, forward Reggie Golson, who has appeared in just one game as he has been slow to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery in September, remains questionable although he had the knee re-examined Monday and things appear to be fine structurally.
"We're pretty banged up right now," Garner said.
But Garner hopes Saturday's 66-58 win at Missouri-Kansas City -- it was the Indians' first road triumph of the season after they had just one road victory all of last year -- will help toward a potential upset.
"No question, that should help us," he said. "You win one on the road, I don't care who you play, that will give us a lot of confidence."