NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State almost pulled off its second straight big comeback in an Ohio Valley Conference game.
But a career performance by Tennessee State's Larry Turner and continued free-throw problems by the Redhawks did them in during a 75-72 road loss Thursday night.
Turner, a 6-foot-11 senior center who was averaging 6.2 points, scored 22 points -- 15 coming in the second half. The Oklahoma transfer, in his second season at TSU, had never before scored more than 14 points in a game.
Turner, however, feasted on the much smaller Redhawks. Doing most of his damage from within a few feet away, he hit nine of 12 field-goal attempts.
"I just had to step up. My team needed me tonight," Turner said.
As for the free throws, the Redhawks made just 14 of 25 (56 percent). Southeast entered the game last in the OVC and toward the bottom nationally from the line at 55.6 percent.
"Four-for-nine in the first half is unacceptable," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said. "I want this team to be as close to 70 percent, or at 70 percent from here on out."
So Southeast, which five days earlier rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit at home to beat Tennessee-Martin, fell to 3-6 overall and 1-1 in OVC play. TSU (3-4) was playing its OVC opener, and also its first home game of the season. The Tigers were picked to finish second in the OVC preseason poll.
The Redhawks, despite trailing most of the way, hung with the Tigers and had the ball twice down by three points in the final 40 seconds. Southeast did not get off a shot either time.
"The idea on the road is to try and steal one. We almost stole one," Edgar said.
Southeast held three early leads, the last at 11-10, before TSU scored five straight points. The Redhawks faced an uphill battle the rest of the night and never could quite catch up.
The Redhawks trailed 46-35 at halftime and were that close thanks to freshman forward Jajuan Maxwell, who played just 3 minutes but hit all three of his 3-point attempts for a team-high nine points in the half.
Another freshman, guard Marcus Rhodes, helped spark the Redhawks' second-half comeback with 14 of his Southeast career-high 17 points in the period.
Rhodes, whose previous high had been 14 points in the win over Tennessee-Martin, cut TSU's lead to 69-67 on a fast-break layup with 4:13 remaining.
After the Tigers went ahead 75-70, Rhodes made two free throws with 1:17 left, bringing Southeast within 75-72.
"I'm starting to get a feel for the game, getting more confidence," said Rhodes, who made eight of 10 free throws.
TSU then struggled from the charity stripe, missing six straight foul shots in the final minute. But Southeast could not take advantage.
With 36 seconds left, the Redhawks turned the ball over on an errant pass.
Then, with less than 5 seconds to play, senior guard Terrick Willoughby was stripped as he was about to go up for a 3-point attempt.The Tigers grabbed the ball and raced toward the other end, and by the time Southeast could commit a foul, there were just three-tenths of a second remaining. TSU missed two free throws but the Redhawks could not get off a final shot.
"I saw there were 5 or 4 seconds left and I was trying to get a shot up," Willoughby said. "I just got stripped.
"When they missed those free throws, it was like an opportunity we didn't capitalize on. It was very frustrating for us. But I think we can take a lot of confidence out of this game, playing a really good team down to the wire on the road."
Edgar agreed, saying, "I think Tennessee State is an outstanding team. I applaud our guys. There were a tremendous amount of positives in the game. We are taking strides."
Junior forward Brandon Foust added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Redhawks. Junior guard David Johnson had 13 points and four steals, while Willoughby scored 10 points.
Southeast concludes its two-game OVC road trip Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Tennessee Tech.