Southeast Missouri State's Jaycen Herring received his first start in his Redhawks career Sunday.
The 6-foot-5 junior forward, who transferred from Palm Beach Community College, said he experienced no nerves before the contest.
Nor did he become flustered when his team fell behind by nine points to Central Methodist -- an NAIA school with a 5-7 record -- midway through the first half and when the Redhawks and Eagles were tied four minutes into the second half.
Herring scored a team-high 16 points, netting 11 second-half points which included two powerful slam dunks, to help Southeast overcome its early struggles and close out its nonconference schedule with a 76-63 win over the Eagles at the Show Me Center.
"I wasn't nervous; I just came out and played," said Herring, who added that his transition to Southeast has been smooth. "Adjustment hasn't really been all that hard. We're just practicing and playing together, and that's pretty easy for me to pick up."
Brandon Foust added 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, while Marcus Rhodes netted 12 points and Michael Rembert scored 10.
Southeast improved 9-5 while Central Methodist dropped to 5-8.
Herring is having a strong year thus far.
"Everybody likes different things, and to me the sign of a basketball player is versatility," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said speaking about Herring. "And that's what he has the most of. He's a guard and he's a forward, and he's comfortable no matter where we put him."
Edgar said Herring has been effective off the bench, and now as a starter.
"It's good that I've got the luxury of going either way with him: to start or come off the bench," Edgar said.
Southeast's Jimmy Drew and David Johnson, two players who have received a number of starts this season, were not a part of the starting five Sunday.
Drew, who hurt his ankle a few days ago at practice, did not play at all against the Eagles, while Johnson, also sidelined recently with ankle problems, received just 2 minutes of action.
Edgar said he decided to go with Herring because he also started guard Johnny Hill (third start) and felt Herring would best fit the play of Hill and the other three regulars: Rembert, Calvin Williams and Roderick Pearson.
"That was just a coach's decision," Edgar said. "We've had some injuries."
Central Methodist jumped out to an 18-11 lead 7:08 into the contest with the help of Sid Stanley, who nailed 3 of 4 3-pointers during the stretch.
"[Stanley] was shooting really good early on," Foust said. "Coach told us he was a real good shooter. He's scoring about 18 points per game.
"I think we underestimated him," Foust continued. "I guess he was ready to play, and we weren't from the beginning of the game."
The Eagles extended their lead to nine points with 10:20 remaining in the first half.
This time it was forward Anthony Love leading the way.
After Love converted a successful layup to make it 20-14, he made a steal 8 seconds later and drove in for a layup while being fouled. He converted his free-throw attempt to give the Eagles a 23-14 advantage.
Love and Stanley combined for 19 of their team's 31 first-half points.
The Redhawks also struggled early, missing some open looks near the basket and not shooting well from the free-throw line. They were 4-of-10 from the line in the first half.
"I think we just came out slow," Herring said. "Once we got used to it, shots started falling. But we struggled from the line. We got to work on that in practice and get better."
The Redhawks went on a 21-8 run over the last 10:06 of the first half, punctuated by a 3-pointer by Rhodes with 2 seconds remaining for a 35-31 lead at the break.
"I told my guys at halftime, 'I'm looking at the minutes; our minutes are fine, our foul situation is fine; they've played three guys 17 or more minutes, and I think their emotion will run out and the first part of the second half is very, very important,'" Edgar said. "And that was true to the case. I do think they got tired throughout the second half, and they only shot 2-of-12 from the 3-point line, 6-for-11 from the foul line."
Southeast opened the second half with a 6-2 run, which included a layup by Rembert, two successful free throws by Herring and a dunk by Rhodes to give the Redhawks a 41-33 advantage at the 18:34 mark.
The Eagles were able to tie it 43-43 just a little over two minutes later.
But Foust scored a jumper to make it 45-43 with 15:45 remaining, and from there the Redhawks pulled away for good, going on a 11-5 run over the next 7 minutes. Herring capped the spurt with a dunk for a 56-48 lead.
Southeast went on to a 13-point victory.
"He's going pretty good right now," Foust said of Herring. "Pretty much right now everyone is getting used to playing with each other. We've got a few games under our belt and we're feeling pretty good together."