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Downed by the Riverside
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Roy Booker's late scoring rush turned a blowout loss into something less certain, but it was not enough to stop California-Riverside from downing visiting Southeast Missouri State 69-61 on Saturday afternoon in a BracketBuster game at the Student Recreation Center.
"We just waited too long -- again -- to turn our switch on," said Booker, who scored 18 of his game-high 23 points over the final 17 minutes. "For 25 games we've been a good one-half ball club. Either we play good the first half and don't show up the second half, or vice-versa."
The Highlanders (4-19) handed the Redhawks (6-19) their 12th consecutive loss. Southeast has not won since a victory at Eastern Illinois on Jan. 5. UC-Riverside, however, can empathize with what the Redhawks are going through, as they started the season with 10 straight losses.
Southeast was 311th and UC-Riverside 312th among Division I teams in an RPI ranking on cbssportsline.com.
The Redhawks stayed somewhat close during the first half but were on the short end of a 34-24 halftime score after hitting just 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) from the floor in the first half.
UC-Riverside used a 15-5 run early in the second to open a 53-32 lead, and only then did the Redhawks really start waking up. Booker had only five points to that juncture, but drained a pair of deep 3-pointers to help Southeast Missouri start getting back into the game.
Terrick Willoughby, who entered the game 0-for-10 from the field since spraining his shoulder against Morehead State last week, sank a 3-pointer with 45.2 seconds left to pull the Redhawks within four points, 63-59.
The Highlanders sealed the deal, however, behind the solid free-throw shooting of Rickey Porter, who made six free throws in the final minute to keep the Highlanders ahead.
Willoughby said his shoulder is feeling better, and that he will play regardless, as the season winds down.
"I've got to get it going for my team," he said. "We tried to pull this one off after we'd played with so little energy in the first half. We got close there at the end, but we hadn't taken care of things at the beginning, so we couldn't get it done."
Southeast coach Garner said his team was playing tired. After their flight, the Redhawks spent three hours on a bus traveling the 45 miles from the airport to their hotel.
"We had dead legs for whatever reason and we never really got it going," Garner said. "I don't know if it was the 15-hour trip we had yesterday or what, but we had no energy until the end."
Willoughby finished with 16 points. Waylon Francis had nine rebounds, Paul Paradoski had seven assists, and Eric Jones blocked a pair of shots.
David Misko led the Highlanders, the last-place team in the Big West Conference, with a career-high 22 points.
Booker said the Redhawks will have to come up with a different plan for the season's final two Ohio Valley Conference games -- at home against Samford on Thursday and Jacksonville State on Saturday -- in order to escape the OVC basement.
"We've got to do something different," Booker said, "because nothing's changed these past 12 games."