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Redhawks defeat EKU, improve to 5-0 in OVC
Southeast went on a 9-0 spurt in the second half to put away the defending OVC tournament champions.
Partly because of Eastern Kentucky's deliberate style, Southeast Missouri State wasn't able to display its normal explosiveness.
But when Wednesday night's game got down to crunch time, the Redhawks' fast and furious style ultimately won out.
The Redhawks blitzed EKU with a 9-0 run in just under two minutes to break away from a second-half tie on their way to a 66-55 win.
"Coach said make them run, make them play our game," junior guard Kenard Moore said of the decisive spurt at the Show Me Center. "When we play our speed, we've got a pretty good chance of winning."
Southeast was forced to play EKU's speed much of the night, so the Redhawks finished well below their Ohio Valley Conference scoring average of 82.5 points per game.
But as the Redhawks showed during an earlier 63-62 victory at Samford, they are able to win games playing different styles this season.
"They had that kind of Samford slowdown basketball," sophomore forward Calvin Williams said. "We had to play to their style, but we got the win. It was a good win for us."
Good enough to keep the surging Redhawks on top of the OVC standings with a 5-0 record.
The Redhawks have surpassed Southeast's 1999-2000 NCAA tournament team for one of the program's best OVC starts. That squad won its first four conference games before losing. Southeast now has the second-best OVC start in program history, trailing only the 1998-99 club, which won its first seven league games.
"It's a great start. ... I'm happy for them," Southeast coach Scott Edgar said. "But we're only a quarter of the way through [the OVC schedule]."
Southeast, 10-5 overall, has won six of its last seven. The Redhawks won 11 games total during Edgar's first season a year ago.
Wednesday night, the Redhawks knocked off the defending OVC tournament champions and a team that won 21 games last season.
The Redhawks were given a break as EKU sophomore point guard Adam Leonard -- last season's OVC co-freshman of the year who burned Southeast with 22 points during a win at the Show Me Center -- did not make the trip because he was reportedly ill.
But Edgar wasn't about to detract from Southeast's accomplishment.
"We were fortunate. ... They come in here without one of the best guards in the league, Adam Leonard," Edgar said. "But that can't take away from how our guys competed.
"I told our guys before it started, if you want to be a champion, you have to beat a champion. They're the champions we're aspiring to be."
Southeast trailed briefly early, but led most of the way. However, the Redhawks never could shake the Colonels (6-7, 3-2).
The Redhawks hounded EKU into poor shooting much of the night, but the Colonels hit their first four 3-pointers of the second half to go from eight points down to a 41-41 tie midway through the period.
That's when the Redhawks were finally able to amp up the tempo, even if only for a short while.
Southeast scored nine straight points in 1 minute, 57 seconds, starting with junior wing Jaycen Herring's driving shot off the glass for a 43-41 lead with 10:24 left.
Williams made two free throws, Moore drained a 3-pointer and Williams got a fast-break dunk off a nice Herring pass with 8:27 remaining. All of a sudden it was 50-41.
"I think in basketball the aggressor is usually the victor," Edgar said. "I told the guys we had to get aggressive to get the momentum back."
After EKU temporarily stopped the bleeding with a basket, Moore drilled consecutive 3-pointers to give the Redhawks their biggest advantage at 56-43 with under six minutes to go.
EKU hung tough, pulling to within 56-50 and later 60-53.
But Southeast hit 6-of-6 free throws in the final 54 seconds, after the Redhawks had been 7-of-15 from the line up to that point.
Sophomore point guard Roderick Pearson made 4-of-4 after he had been 1-of-6 until the final minute.
"I liked the fact we made our free throws down the stretch," Edgar said.
Moore led the Redhawks with 17 points off the bench as he missed his season high by one point.
Moore, a junior college transfer, scored 14 second-half points. He hit 5-of-8 3-pointers in the game, after entering the contest shooting 50 percent from 3-point range in OVC play.
"I just had to stay with it, just had to look for my shot, keep running the floor," Moore said.
Moore and starter Jimmy Drew split the minutes at the shooting guard position and both rank among the OVC's better 3-point marksmen. Edgar generally goes with whoever has the hot hand.
"With him and Jimmy, I feel like any time they're open, it has a great chance to go in," Edgar said. "I challenge the guys to find him [Moore] on the run. That 3 on the run is a backbreaker."
Williams was Southeast's only other double-figure scorer with 10 points, but four more players scored at least seven points.
Senior forward Brandon Foust had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Southeast shot 50 percent from the field, limited EKU to 34.7 percent shooting and dominated the smaller Colonels inside with a 34-14 points-in-the-paint advantage.
Southeast plays another OVC game Saturday night, at Eastern Illinois.