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Redhawks win in Roman's debut
It was far from a thing of beauty.
But even though it won't count on the record, at least it was a win.
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team opened its two-game exhibition schedule by rallying past visiting Missouri Baptist 81-73 on Saturday night.
Southeast trailed 35-33 at halftime and could not shake the Spartans -- an NAIA program from St. Louis that went 6-25 last year -- until the final minutes.
"We didn't perform like we wanted to," sophomore forward Jajuan Maxwell said. "But it's the first game. We're going to get better.
"It's all about strides. We have to take one step at a time and try to get better over time."
Maxwell appears to have gotten better over time after he missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Maxwell, who averaged 5.1 points per game as a freshman two years ago, had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. He hit 8 of 12 from the field.
"Jajuan was huge," Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said. "He looked like he was in midseason form."
Roman, running the squad after coach Scott Edgar was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an NCAA hearing on alleged rules violations, had mixed feelings about the game.
Roman didn't like the way the Redhawks played in the first half, but he thought they performed much better during a second half that saw them hold a 48-38 edge.
"They were hungrier than we were to start the game," Roman said. "We challenged them at halftime and we responded in the second half. We got better as the game went on."
Senior guard Kenard Moore led the Redhawks with 23 points, hitting 7 of 17 from the floor, including 4 of 11 3-pointers.
"We still have a long way to go, a lot of work to do," said Moore, Southeast's third-leading scorer with a 10.4 average last season.
Senior forward Jaycen Herring, Southeast's top scorer last year with a 13.1 average, added 12 points, but made just 2 of 8 field goals.
Junior college transfer Bijon Jones, Southeast's only available true point guard this season, was solid with nine points and five assists against two turnovers.
"Bijon was steady. That's what we want out of him," Roman said.
Southeast used just seven players, six of whom played at least 27 minutes, as the Redhawks' already-thin roster was even thinner Saturday.
Returning junior forward Calvin Williams remains suspended following his recent arrest on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, driving without a license and driving without proper headlights.
Returning junior guard Jimmy Drew sat on the bench in street clothes due to a foot injury that has caused him to miss several practices. Roman said Drew should return to practice Monday.
"It was draining for a second," said Maxwell of Southeast's thin bench. "But this will help us get in shape."
The game featured 13 lead changes and eight ties. Southeast finally went ahead for good midway through the second half, but led by just four points with under three minutes to play.
Southeast opened the night's first double-digit lead with 59 seconds left, and stretched the advantage to 12 points before the Spartans hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We definitely picked it up in the second half," Maxwell said.
Noting that Southeast lost 14 of its final 15 games last season to finish 12-19, Maxwell added: "It's the second game in 16 we've won, so this will help our confidence."