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Redhawks collect 2nd OVC win
Southeast defeated visiting Eastern Kentucky 68-62.
Southeast Missouri State might not have been in an absolute must-win situation Monday night -- but the Redhawks were about as close as possible.
"This was as close to a must-win game in the conference as we could have had," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "Playing at home, we really needed it."
And the Redhawks got it, using dominant rebounding, strong defense and some timely shots down the stretch to beat Eastern Kentucky 68-62 at the Show Me Center.
The Redhawks improved to 5-7 overall and 2-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Colonels, the defending OVC tournament champions and this year's preseason No. 2 pick in the league, fell to 5-7 and 2-3.
"We needed it big time," Southeast sophomore point guard Paul Paradoski said.
Southeast continued to struggle offensively, shooting its season average of 40 percent from the field, although the Redhawks hit 42 percent from 3-point range.
"I still think we're going to get better shooting the ball," Garner said. "But we shoot 40 percent, and we still beat a good team -- a team that won our conference tournament last year."
Perhaps the biggest factor in the victory was Southeast's 46-29 rebounding advantage, including 17-9 on the offensive boards, which led to a 12-5 edge in second-chance points for the Redhawks.
"Coach has been stressing not giving up second shots in practice," junior forward Andrais Thornton said. "Our focus has been on that."
Thornton, a junior college transfer, pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds and added 12 points. Thornton had six offensive rebounds.
Senior center Waylon Francis came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds.
"We really rebounded," Garner said. "Andrais and Waylon really went after the ball. When you have two guys rebound in double figures, and the game is not high scoring, that's pretty good."
Paradoski had a strong all-around game, scoring 13 points and dishing out five assists against just two turnovers.
Paradoski, who struggled so much with his shooting last year -- he was also often reluctant to shoot -- continued to display an improved stroke. He hit five of eight shots, including three of five 3-pointers.
"Coach gives me the green light," Paradoski said. "If it's there, I'll shoot it this year."
Senior guard Roy Booker, the OVC's leading scorer who entered play averaging 20.5 points per game, missed his first seven shots, but hit six of his last 12 and had a team-high 18 points.
Junior guard Terrick Willoughby, who had been in a severe shooting slump for several games before appearing to break out some in the second half Wednesday at Illinois, hit three of six 3-pointers and scored 13 points. He also had seven rebounds.
"Paul had a really good game and Terrick shot pretty well, so hopefully he's coming out of it," Garner said.
EKU, which shot 41.4 percent, was led by its senior guard tandem of Jason McLeish (21 points) and Matt Witt (19 points).
Witt hit two early 3-pointers as EKU scored the game's first eight points. Southeast had only three points in the first six minutes.
But the Redhawks' defense kept them close until they finally got going somewhat offensively.
Thornton's follow shot with just under seven minutes remaining in the half gave Southeast its first lead, 17-15, and the Redhawks never relinquished the advantage.
Willoughby's 3-pointer capped a 10-0 run and put Southeast up 21-15. Booker's driving shot with 10 seconds left gave the Redhawks their biggest lead of 32-20, and it was 32-22 at halftime.
The Colonels twice closed to within one point in the second half, but the Redhawks answered every charge.
Paradoski, Booker and junior guard Eric Burtin all hit late 3-pointers that helped the Redhawks hold off the Colonels.
"Paul, Roy and Eric all hit big shots," Garner said.
Thornton's basket and free throw with 2:24 left put Southeast up 60-53.
EKU was forced to foul the rest of the way, and although the Redhawks made just eight of 14 free throws in the late going, the Colonels never got closer than four points.
"This is a big win," Thornton said. "We needed it bad."
Southeast plays at Eastern Illinois Thursday night.