Southeast rallies for wild win

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Mike Nelke picked a heck of a time to score his first points of the season.

Nelke, a senior guard who has seen limited action so far this year because of a sprained wrist, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer Saturday night as Southeast Missouri State University pulled out a 59-58 victory over South Dakota State.

"My first points," a smiling Nelke said after Southeast rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit.

The triumph, in front of an announced crowd of 3,301 at the Show Me Center, improved Southeast's record to 2-3 and averted what would have been a major upset by first-year Division I program South Dakota State (1-5).

"We didn't play very well at all. They played harder and with more energy. I wish I knew why," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We were fortunate to win, but I do have to give our kids credit. I don't think you could come back from that many points down if you don't have some character.

"And we played shorthanded again, which didn't help."

Southeast was without leading scorer Dainmon Gonner, who sat on the bench in street clothes after being suspended for one game by Garner for violating unspecified team rules. The senior forward is averaging 22.3 points per game, which also leads the Ohio Valley Conference.

"It was a very simple thing, not anything major," Garner said.

With eight seconds left and South Dakota State leading 58-56, the Jackrabbits missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation.

After a scramble for the rebound, Southeast senior guard Brett Hale came away with the ball, took a few dribbles and passed to Nelke in the left corner.

Nelke was guarded tightly and it appeared as if he might not even get a shot off, but he finally let fly from about 22 feet just before the buzzer sounded. The ball nestled into the net and set off a wild on-court celebration by Southeast players.

"I just couldn't get it off at first. Their guy did a great job playing defense," Nelke said. "I thought it had a chance. It kind of felt good and it looked good."

Said senior guard Derek Winans, who saw his first action of the season after being out with a stress fracture and scored three points in 18 minutes: "I feel great. It was awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better ending in my first game back."

Sophomore guard Terrick Willoughby led Southeast with 15 points, hitting five of six shots, including both of his 3-point attempts.

"We're relieved," Willoughby said of the narrow escape. "But I thought we showed a lot of character to come through."

Hale, who missed the previous game after receiving stitches in his left ring finger, was Southeast's only other double-figure scorer with 10 points.

Senior forward Reggie Golson scored all nine of his points in the second half and he led all rebounders with seven. Junior guard Ryan Belcher scored all seven of his points in the second half as he came up with several key plays.

Freshman forward Michael Loney paced the Jackrabbits with 19 points. Sophomore forward Joe Green added 10.

Despite falling behind 9-0 in the game's opening minutes, the Jackrabbits took the fight to Southeast most of the first half, either getting layups or going to the free-throw line. South Dakota State hit 17 of 20 foul shots in the opening period to rally for a 31-28 lead at the break.

South Dakota State kept pouring it on in the early stages of the second half, getting easy shots in close and using a 17-4 run to go up 48-32 with 12 minutes left. Green's 3-pointer with 8:34 remaining gave the Jackrabbits their biggest lead at 55-38.

Then, all of a sudden, Southeast appeared to wake up from its slumber, particularly defensively. South Dakota State scored just three points the rest of the way.

Golson got a conventional three-point play while Winans and Belcher drilled consecutive 3-pointers, all in a span of two minutes, as Southeast pulled to within 55-47.

With 1:14 left, Belcher's follow shot cut South Dakota State's lead to 58-55. Southeast had a chance to tie after a Winans steal, but he missed a 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining.

The Jackrabbits missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left. Southeast junior center Ketshner Guerrier made one of two foul shots with 10 seconds to go as Southeast pulled within 58-56, setting up the wild finish.

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