Hale was a pain to SW Mo.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Maybe Brett Hale should hurt his back more often.

Hale, Southeast Missouri State University's sophomore guard from Dexter High School, was not even expected to play Saturday night because of a back injury.

Instead, Hale was a pain to Southwest Missouri State as he came off the bench to score 15 points and play tough defense on Bears star Terrance McGee during the Indians' 70-53 victory at the Show Me Center.

The Indians evened their record at 5-5 and dropped the Bears to 3-5.

As late as Friday, it was doubtful that Hale would see any action against SMS because of the injury he suffered during the previous Saturday's game at Missouri-Kansas City. Hale missed Tuesday's contest at Arkansas-Little Rock.

"I didn't know Friday if I would play," Hale said. "It was day to day for me, but I felt good" Saturday.

The normally sweet-shooting Hale, who had a solid freshman season last year, had struggled with his shooting so far this season, hitting just 33 percent of his field-goal attempts and only 30 percent from 3-point range.

But against SMS, Hale hit six of 11 shots, including three of four 3-pointers.

"It felt good to get going again like that," Hale said.

Garner likes Hale's play

Southeast coach Gary Garner also felt good about Hale's shooting along with his strong defensive work on McGee, who was held to just 10 points. McGee came into the game leading the Bears with a 17-point average.

"Brett is such a good shooter and hopefully this will get him going," Garner said. "I can't say enough about his toughness. We didn't even know if he could play, but he has a great game, and he played really good defense on McGee."

Most of the Indians enjoyed stellar performances during Southeast's surprising rout. The Indians scored the game's first 13 points and were never really challenged. Their lead never dipped under seven points and it never got below 12 points in the second half after Southeast opened up a 42-26 halftime advantage.

Not that SMS is a powerhouse, but the Bears have turned in some strong performances this year, winning at St. Louis, beating Arkansas State and losing at Kent State -- an NCAA Elite Eight participant last year -- in overtime.

"I think they're a good team, and to beat them like that is really big for us," sophomore guard Derek Winans said. "Everything really clicked."

Winans had a particularly impressive performance, playing all 40 minutes and scoring 17 points to go with 10 assists. Winans manned the point guard position virtually the entire way due to the absence of Kevin Roberts, who is out with a foot injury.

Winans hit three of five 3-pointers as the Indians went 8-for-12 from 3-point range.

Junior center Brandon Griffin, who is averaging double figures in points and rebounds, had another double-double Saturday with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Griffin helped the Indians win the rebounding battle 32 to 29.

"When we rebound, we generally win the basketball game," Garner said. "Rebounding is so important for us."

Southeast is averaging about two rebounds more per gme than the opposition. That might not seem like a lot, but it's a far cry from last season, when the Indians were outrebounded by an average of nearly six per contest. That shortcoming on the boards contributed greatly to Southeast's 6-22 record.

"That's really a huge number of rebounds to get beat by," Garner said. "I know we're not a great rebounding team, but we've really emphasized it and we've gotten a lot better. Brandon has made a big difference."

Junior forward Damarcus Hence added 16 points Saturday.

The Indians shot 65.4 percent in the first half to build their big lead and won handily despite shooting just 26.9 percent in the second half. They sizzled from the free-throw line, making 14 of 17, and had just 13 turnovers despite being pressured much of the night.

"I think that was our best game this year," Garner said.

Garner is giving the Indians several days off so they can go home for Christmas. Southeast will return to practice Thursday. Saturday, the Indians will fly to Omaha, Neb., where they will play nationally-ranked Creighton (9-0) Sunday afternoon. That will be the Indians' final game before the Ohio Valley Conference schedule begins Jan. 4 at home against Eastern Illinois.

"I don't even want to think about Creighton yet," Garner said, laughing. "They're scary good."

But no matter what happens in Omaha, the Indians will begin their OVC schedule in much better shape than last year, when they started conference play 2-9 -- and those two victories were against Division II teams.

"For as tough a schedule as we've played, I think to be no worse than 5-6 going into the conference, you would take that," Garner said. "You always want to do better, but we've really played some good teams."Noteworthy

***Southeast has added another walk-on to the roster. Lawrence Graves is a 6-foot-2 senior guard who attended Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo.

Other Southeast first-year walk-ons are freshmen guards John Boggio and Lance Sechrest. Boggio, primarily because of Roberts' injury, has worked his way into the rotation and he hit his first college 3-pointer Saturday. He played five minutes.

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