Southeast men suffer 75-63 loss to Morehead St.

Friday, February 8, 2008
Southeast Missouri State's Johnny Hill fought for a rebound during Thursday's game at Morehead State. (TIM HOLBROOK ~ Morehead State University photographer)

The Redhawks endured their eighthloss in nine games.

MOREHEAD, Ky. -- With his team reeling, Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Scott Edgar made a significant change to the Redhawks' starting lineup.

For the first time all season, sophomore point guard Roderick Pearson began a game on the bench, with junior college transfer Hank Harris getting his first Southeast start.

Edgar wanted Pearson to relax a bit and avoid the early foul trouble that has plagued him this season.

"My intent was to try and make the game easier for him, not to put a lot of pressure on himself," Edgar said.

Pearson said he did feel more relaxed, and he had a solid performance, but the change did not help Southeast end its slump.

The Redhawks suffered their eighth loss in nine games, 75-63 at Morehead State on Thursday night.

Southeast (12-13, 7-8) dipped into an eighth-place tie in the 11-team Ohio Valley Conference. Only the top eight squads make the OVC tournament.

"We just need to stick together and keep playing hard," junior guard Kenard Moore said.

The Eagles (12-10, 9-5), picked 10th in the OVC preseason poll, remained tied for third place after sweeping the season series with the Redhawks.

"We're making progress," MSU coach Donnie Tyndall said. "The guys are playing hard."

MSU has won eight of its last nine games and remained unbeaten at home.

"They find ways to win," Edgar said. "They're doing a lot of good things, and they're playing with confidence."

Southeast's current slide has featured a combination of blowouts and games that hung in the balance down the stretch.

Thursday's contest fit the second category as Southeast rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to forge a 61-61 tie with just under 4 minutes remaining.

But two things that have plagued the Redhawks all season -- turnovers and fouls -- contributed to the Eagles' 14-2 closing burst.

"We just need to work on closing out games," Pearson said.

The Redhawks lead the OVC in turnovers and fouls, and rank toward the bottom nationally in both categories.

Over the final 3 minutes, 28 seconds, after Southeast tied it, the Redhawks committed three turnovers and sent MSU to the free-throw line 13 times. The Eagles made 12 to win going away.

"On the road you want to be in striking distance down the stretch," Edgar said. "We were. ... We just didn't get enough stops."

Southeast wound up with 21 turnovers, nearly three above its season average, and 21 fouls, one below its average.

Moore led the Redhawks with 17 points off the bench as he hit 4-of-9 from 3-point range.

Pearson, who split time with Harris in the first half and got most of the minutes in the second half, had 15 points, four assists and two steals while committing three turnovers in 29 minutes.

Pearson believed the move helped him.

"I didn't get those quick fouls, like I always do," he said. "It helped me relax."

But Moore and Pearson were Southeast's only real offensive threats as the Redhawks finished more than 14 points below their season scoring average.

Junior forward Jaycen Herring, the Redhawks' top scorer, was hampered by foul trouble and a leg injury suffered late in the first half.

Although he played 29 minutes, Herring scored just seven points, which is eight below his average in conference games.

"He banged it up pretty good," said Edgar of Herring, who noticeably limped during the second half.

Southeast started strong and built two nine-point leads in the first half, but MSU closed the period with a 9-0 run to lead 34-30 at the break.

The Redhawks never got ahead in the second half, but after falling behind 54-43, they forged a 61-61 tie on two Pearson free throws with 3:50 remaining.

Twenty-two seconds later, Southeast sophomore forward Johnny Hill was whistled for a foul on a 3-point attempt by Jamyron Steward.

It appeared Hill blocked Steward's attempt cleanly, then came down on Steward well after the release. But Steward was awarded three free throws. He made two to put the Eagles up 63-61.

"What can you say, it was a tie game and we end up fouling a 3-point shooter," Edgar said. "That's kind of shooting yourself in the foot."

After that, the Redhawks imploded with their barrage of turnovers and fouls.

MSU scored 12 of its final 14 points on free throws, and made 10-of-11 during a two-minute stretch that ended at the 1:18 mark after a personal foul on Southeast freshman center Will Bogan, who was also whistled for a technical.

The Eagles made all four free throws on the play, which gave them an insurmountable 73-63 lead.

"We just need to keep our composure," Moore said.

MSU shot 50 percent against a Southeast squad that was leading the OVC in field-goal percentage defense at less than 43 percent.

The Eagles also were strong from 3-point range (8-of-18, 44.4 percent) and the charity stripe (21-of-27, 77.8 percent).

MSU wound up shooting and making 11 more free throws than the Redhawks, who went 10-of-16. That differential came in in the final four minutes.

Southeast returns to action at Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night.

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