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Redhawks falter in second half, suffer 65-45 loss to Evansville
EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Southeast Missouri State's defense, which had largely been torched so far this season, played by far its best half Monday night.
Unfortunately for the Redhawks, their offense could not even come close to repeating its hot-shooting performance from the previous contest.
And once Evansville's offense got going, it was lights out for the visiting Redhawks, as they were blasted 65-45 despite trailing by just three points at halftime.
"We just couldn't get going offensively the whole game," junior point guard Paul Paradoski said.
Southeast (2-4) had a two-game winning streak snapped. The Redhawks' four losses have all been by at least 20 points, while their two victories have each been by three points.
The Purple Aces (3-2) from the Missouri Valley Conference won for the third straight time. They also held their third consecutive opponent under 50 points for the first time since the 1947-48 season.
"Defense is what kept us in the game in the first half," Evansville senior forward Matt Webster said.
Three days after shooting a season-high 50 percent from the field and scoring a season-high 78 points during a home win over California-Riverside, the Redhawks shot 34 percent -- including 20.8 percent on 3-pointers as they made just five of 24 from long range.
The 45 points were the fewest Southeast has scored all season and also marked the Redhawks' lowest output since the 2000-01 campaign, during a loss to Toledo.
"I thought we were going to get it going again tonight," junior swingman David Johnson said. "But we just couldn't do anything offensively. We came out hard and were playing scrappy defense, but in the second half we just didn't get after it."
Despite struggling offensively, the Redhawks led 20-13 midway through the first half and trailed just 25-22 at halftime, thanks largely to holding the Aces to 28.1-percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
"The first half, we were sharp. They did not get looks," Southeast first-year coach Scott Edgar said of his defense. "The first 17 minutes were very good. We've had that in several of our games. Then we're not physically and mentally strong enough."
The Aces came out hot in the second half and the Redhawks continued to misfire, scoring just four points during a stretch of more than 17 minutes that spanned both halves.
Evansville scored the first 11 points of the second half and hit Southeast with a 20-2 run over the opening eight minutes of the period to complete an overall 32-4 burst.
That put the Redhawks in a 45-24 hole. Although there were still more than 11 minutes remaining, Southeast got no closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
"We played good defense in the first half. We held them to 25," Paradoski said. "We let them get off at the beginning of the second half."
The Aces shot 46.2 percent in the final period, including 62.5 percent from 3-point range, as they made five of eight attempts. They hit just two of 11 3-pointers in the first half.
Senior guard Kyle Anslinger, the MVC's leading 3-point shooter last year, missed all four of his first-half attempts from beyond the arc.
But Anslinger hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half, every one coming in the early going as the Aces broke things open. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the final period.
Senior forward Art Stalbergs led the Aces with a career-high 16 points off the bench, hitting seven of eight shots.
Stalbergs scored seven of Evansville's final 12 points in the first half as the Aces erased a 20-13 deficit to lead at the break.
"Down 13-20, we had no energy at all, but Art really kicked it in," said Webster, who added 11 points. "He got us going."
Freshman reserve forward Jajuan Maxwell was a bright spot for the Redhawks with 11 points as he scored in double figures for the first time in his young college career. That came after his eight-point performance against Cal-Riverside.
Maxwell hit four of five shots, including both of his 3-pointers, in 16 minutes. No other Redhawk who played more than two minutes made at least half of his shots.
"He keeps improving," Edgar said of Maxwell. "He has been a bright spot since he came to campus."
Maxwell gave the Redhawks an early lift off the bench, scoring eight of their first 17 points as Southeast built a 17-12 advantage.
Johnson's 3-pointer with 8:59 remaining in the period gave the Redhawks their biggest lead at 20-13.
But Southeast then went ice cold, scoring just two points the rest of the half to trail 25-22.
When the Redhawks scored just two points over the first nine minutes of the second half, the rout was on.
"I do credit their defense," said Edgar of the Redhawks' offensive woes. "They got the tempo where they liked it and we got tentative. We didn't look to attack."
The Redhawks were also hurt by 13 second-half turnovers, after they had just six in the first half. Evansville had only nine turnovers the entire game.
Junior forward Brandon Foust added nine points and a game-high nine rebounds for Southeast. Paradoski had nine points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals against just one turnover.