Southeast men regroup, escape with victory

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Redhawks posted an 81-78 victory over Morehead State.

Maybe the basketball gods are finally starting to favor Southeast Missouri State.

And at home, no less.

After suffering so many excruciating Ohio Valley Conference losses, the Redhawks seem to finally be getting good at coming through in crunch time.

The latest example was Thursday night, as the Redhawks slipped past visiting Morehead State 81-78.

That's two straight wins for Southeast in OVC games decided in the final minutes, and three of the last four.

Prior to this recent splurge, the Redhawks had been 1-5 in conference nail-biters.

"We've had a lot of bad breaks," senior guard Terrick Willoughby said. "Now things are starting to turn over and go our way."

Said Southeast coach Scott Edgar: "Hopefully it's a sign that we're maturing. We're learning how to win, and we're getting a little physically tougher."

The Redhawks (10-15, 8-8) remained in sixth place in the 11-team OVC, while Morehead (10-13, 6-9) is tied for seventh after suffering its seventh consecutive defeat.

Southeast was able to win a game at the Show Me Center for the first time since Jan. 18.

The Redhawks had suffered three straight home losses, and still are only 4-5 in OVC home games, compared to 4-3 on the road.

"It's very nice to win in front of our fans," Willoughby said.

Southeast shot the lights out in the first half -- hitting 64 percent from the field and making nine of 14 3-pointers -- but could not shake the Eagles, who trimmed a 15-point deficit late in the opening period to 45-36 at the intermission.

Not surprisingly, considering how hot they were, the Redhawks' shooting cooled off considerably in the second half and the Eagles rallied.

Morehead built a pair of four-point leads, including 72-68 with under five minutes remaining.

The teams were tied at 75-75 when junior forward Brandon Foust drilled a 3-pointer from the corner at the 2:14 mark, putting Southeast on top 78-75.

"Brandon stepped up big," Edgar said.

Neither squad scored for nearly 2 minutes before Willoughby made one of two free throws with 28 seconds left for a 79-75 advantage.

Morehead's Jamyron Steward made a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to slice the deficit to 79-78.

Freshman point guard Roderick Pearson hit two free throws with 13 seconds remaining for an 81-78 lead.

Morehead's Maze Stallworth got a good look from a straight-on 3-pointer with 5 seconds left but missed.

The Redhawks grabbed the rebound, threw a long pass toward the other end and were able to run out the clock before the Eagles could foul.

"We've lost so many tough games, it's nice to start winning these games," Foust said.

Poor free-throw shooting has cost the Redhawks in several of their narrow OVC losses, but Southeast made a sizzling 16 of 19 against the Eagles (84.2 percent).

Pearson, Southeast's top free-throw shooter this season at 75.3 percent, was 8-for-8, with all the attempts coming in the second half.

"Rod made big free throws," Edgar said.

Willoughby scored a season-high 17 points, 16 coming in the first half. He continued his recent hot shooting by making four of six 3-pointers. He now leads the OVC in 3-point percentage at 43 percent (37 of 86).

"My shot has been feeling good," Willougby said.

Foust had 14 points, 12 in the second half.

Also scoring in double figures for Southeast were Pearson (13 points) and junior center Mike Rembert (10). Rembert added four assists, two steals and two blocks.

Freshman guard Marcus Rhodes and junior guard David Johnson each added nine points, with Johnson grabbing a team-high eight rebounds to go along with two blocks.

The Redhawks finished shooting 51 percent, including 50 percent from 3-point range.

Southeast tied its season high with 13 3-pointers.

But not everything came up roses for the Redhawks. Rembert suffered a knee injury in the final moments and Edgar seemed concerned afterwards.

"We'll just have to wait and see [today]," said Edgar regarding Rembert's status for Saturday's game with Eastern Kentucky.

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