UTM star drops 38 points, loss on Redhawks

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson shoots over Southeast Missouri State's Israel Kirk during the second half Monday at the Show Me Center. Hudson scored 22 of his 38 points in the second half.

Lester Hudson was on top of his game, and Calvin Williams wasn't even in the game.

That made Monday's outcome fairly predictable, with the University of Tennessee-Martin coasting past Southeast Missouri State 81-67.

Hudson, the nation's second-leading scorer, put on his anticipated highlight-reel performance at the Show Me Center.

Hudson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior combo guard, scored 38 points to match the second-highest total of his two-year UTM career.

"He's a very special player," UTM coach Bret Campbell said.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson nearly loses the ball to Southeast Missouri State's Bijon Jones, left, as Southeast's Johnny Hill also defends during the second half Monday at the Show Me Center.

Way too special for the Redhawks on a night when their top player wasn't in uniform.

Williams, a 6-9 junior center who has established himself as one of the Ohio Valley Conference's premier inside players, sat on the bench in street clothes with an ankle injury.

Williams, averaging 17 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game to rank among the OVC leaders in all three categories, twisted the ankle on the opening tip Saturday against Eastern Illinois.

Williams played most of that game, but the ankle became swollen the next day and was still too tender for Monday's game.

"He did it on the tip to start the [Eastern Illinois] game," Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said. "He played on it, but it ballooned up on him the next morning."

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Southeast Missouri State's Kenard Moore slam dunks against Tennessee-Martin in the second half Monday at the Show Me Center.

Roman said he expects to have Williams back for Thursday's date with Morehead State, the third of four straight home contests for the Redhawks.

In the meantime, Southeast (3-14, 0-6) fell deeper into the OVC basement.

The Redhawks have lost six straight games and 11 of their last 12.

Dating back to last season, Southeast has dropped 13 consecutive conference games and posted just one win in its past 20 OVC contests.

"We've still got a long season left," sophomore forward Jajuan Maxwell said. "We just have to keep playing."

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Tennessee-Martin's Lester Hudson nearly loses the ball to Southeast Missouri State's Bijon Jones, left, as Southeast's Johnny Hill defends in the second half Monday at the Show Me Center.

The Redhawks had only seven available scholarship players without Williams.

"It's tough having to play 35, 40 minutes every night," senior forward Jaycen Herring said. "We just have to keep working, keep battling."

Roman thought the Redhawks did that against UTM (10-6, 3-3), which has won eight of its last nine.

"I thought we had a pretty good effort, a pretty good showing overall," Roman said. "We battled with this team."

But the Redhawks had no answer for Hudson -- not that many teams do.

One year after bursting onto the Division I scene by averaging 25.7 points per game to rank fifth in the nation, Hudson has topped that this season.

Hudson is averaging 27.4 points to rank second nationally, behind only Davidson star Stephen Curry. He also leads the OVC in free-throw shooting and steals, while ranking among the top 10 in rebounding, assists and 3-pointers made.

"He's a great all-around player. He's not just a scorer, he does so many things," Campbell said. "He makes everyone around him better."

Hudson, the reigning OVC player of the year and an All-American who is regarded as a solid NBA prospect, scored in about every way possible against the Redhawks.

Hudson hit 14 of 27 field goals, including 4 of 10 3-pointers. He scored on mid-range jumpers, knifing drives in traffic and even threw down a thunderous alley-oop dunk.

"He's one of the best players I've ever coached against," Roman said. "I would expect to see him playing on TV next year."

Herring guarded Hudson much of the game, with junior wing Johnny Hill also taking his turn. Herring and Hudson both are natives of Memphis, Tenn.

"We played in high school a couple times. I've been knowing him since about ninth grade," Herring said. "He's one of the best players in the league, probably in the nation.

"We knew he was going to score. They played well as a team and got the win."

Hudson, who added five rebounds and three assists against just two turnovers while playing 36 minutes, said the Skyhawks were determined not to take Southeast lightly.

"We don't underestimate nobody in the OVC," he said.

Hudson was especially strong at the beginning of each half. He scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the game to help UTM grab a 14-4 lead that never dipped under eight points the rest of the way.

Hudson then scored 13 points in the first five minutes of the second half as UTM expanded a 40-27 halftime lead to 57-39. The closest Southeast got after that was 10 points in the final two minutes.

"I knew they'd come out hard," said Hudson, who has scored at least 30 points in five of his last six games and is the only player in the nation to have scored at least 20 points in every game. "We just came out with intensity off the top to try to get a win tonight."

Hudson, who said surpassing his career high of 41 points never entered his mind, credited his teammates.

"My teammates give me good picks, get me the ball when I need it," he said.

Senior guard Kenard Moore led the Redhawks with 21 points. Herring and Hill added 15 apiece. Junior forward LaMont Russell pulled down 10 rebounds.

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