Road killer

Friday, January 14, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Southeast Missouri State's players were not feeling so heartbroken, they might have appreciated the kind of classic game they had just participated in.

But that was hard to grasp following Thursday night's unbelievable 105-101 double-overtime Ohio Valley Conference loss at Tennessee State.

"We played hard, but it's the same old," senior forward Dainmon Gonner said. "We can't finish."

Added senior guard Derek Winans: "We gave our best effort. We played as hard as we could. But it's pretty frustrating to lose games like this."

Winans did acknowledge that "you knew it was a great game. Both teams fought so hard and made so many big plays. But it's hard to appreciate that right now."

Southeast fell to 6-9 overall and 1-3 in OVC play. TSU, the preseason No. 2 pick in the conference, improved to 7-10 and 2-1.

Southeast, which two games ago saw a 15-point lead early in the second half evaporate during a two-point loss at Tennessee Tech, this time led by 18 points early in the second half before the Tigers stormed back, after which the contest turned into a back-and-forth affair that featured numerous big plays by both squads.

"We had a great comeback. This is the greatest win I've been associated with in my two years here," TSU coach Cy Alexander said. "It was a great game to watch, and I have to give both teams so much credit. It was an unbelievable game."

Gonner led Southeast with a career-high 37 points along with 12 rebounds. He hit 15 of 26 shots from the field, including four of five 3-pointers, but went just three of eight from the free-throw line.

Winans hit five of 11 3-pointers and scored 19 points. Senior forward Reggie Golson had 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks before fouling out late in regulation. Sophomore guard Terrick Willoughby added 17 points.

TSU sophomore guard Bruce Price scored 30 points. Senior forward Roshaun Bowens and freshman guard Reiley Ervin each added 18 points.

Southeast shot 46.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range, but made just 15 of 25 free throws and had 26 turnovers.

"You're not going to win on the road with 26 turnovers," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We played hard and together. We shot the ball well. We outrebounded them (47-38). We did what we needed to do, but we have to take care of the ball. And free throws, especially late, hurt us."

Conversely, TSU -- which entered the game shooting 68 percent from the line -- hit a sizzling 33 of 37 (89.2 percent).

"They were really hot from the free-throw line," Garner said. "We probably put them on the line too much."

Southeast played a near flawless first half, shooting 52.9 percent overall, hitting nine of 15 3-pointers and committing just three turnovers while building a 48-37 lead.

When senior guard Mike Nelke drilled a 3-pointer just 3:03 into the second half, Southeast had a 57-39 advantage, and the visitors also led 59-41 moments later.

But TSU then used its superior athleticism to turn up the defensive pressure, resulting in 18 second-half turnovers, as TSU stormed from behind to forge a 69-69 tie with a little more than five minutes remaining.

Southeast regrouped and scored seven straight points to go ahead 76-69 with a little more than three minutes left.

After TSU pulled to within 78-77, Southeast had the chance to ice the victory from the free-throw line.

But Gonner hit only one of two foul shots with 1:19 left to make it 79-77. That was still the score when junior guard Ryan Belcher was fouled with 10 seconds left, and he also made just one of two for an 80-77 lead.

That left the door open for TSU and little-used senior guard Herley Maclin nailed a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left to force overtime.

"We had the basketball game won, but we had a huge defensive breakdown when we went up by three," Garner said. "We did not want to give up a 3-point shot, but we had two players run at the same guy and we left the man wide open."

Southeast built a pair of five-point leads in the first five-minute extra session, the last at 90-85 on a Willoughby basket with 2:36 remaining.

TSU stormed back and grabbed two three-point leads, the last at 97-94 with 35 seconds left. But Gonner's 3-pointer with 13 seconds left forged a 97-97 tie, and it was on to a second OT.

The Tigers never trailed in this extra period after scoring the first basket. They went ahead for good at 101-99 with 3:08 left on Bowens' driving shot.

Southeast missed six shots on two straight possessions, then TSU hit four of six free throws to seal the victory.

"They turned up the pressure and we got back on our heels," Gonner said. "We had too many turnovers."

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