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Southeast closed regular season by hammering UT-Martin
Southeast Missouri State's Redhawks didn't finish the regular season nearly as strong as they wanted, but they made sure they ended it in style.
Getting 58 points from five seniors making their final home appearance, Southeast used a big second half to defeat Tennessee-Martin 72-52 Saturday night at the Show Me Center.
The Redhawks broke a three-game losing streak and once again climbed above the .500 mark at 14-13. Their 9-7 Ohio Valley Conference record netted them a fifth-place tie in the 11-team league.
"Coming off three losses, we just wanted to get a win, and especially on senior night it feels real good," senior forward Reggie Golson said.
Added senior forward Dainmon Gonner: "It's a nice win. We wanted to get the monkey off our back and take care of business."
Because of tiebreakers, Southeast is the No. 6 seed for the eight-team OVC tournament and will have a quick rematch with third-seeded Murray State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Murray, Ky.
The Racers, who tied for second in the league, beat Southeast by four points Thursday night at the Show Me Center, but the Redhawks won at Murray State by three points on Feb. 5.
"We feel confident we can win wherever we go," senior guard Mike Nelke said.
Gonner, the OVC's leading scorer, led the way with 24 points, including 16 in the second half as the Redhawks outscored UTM 46-27. Gonner also had three assists and three steals as he added to his league-leading steals total.
Golson contributed 15 points, 13 coming in the second half. The OVC's leading rebounder and shot-blocker had just four boards but added two rejections.
Senior guard Derek Winans, fifth on Southeast's career scoring list, had 12 points, four steals and two assists.
"It's great to win our last home game, and now we're looking forward to the tournament," Winans said.
Nelke added five points and two assists off the bench, while senior guard Brett Hale gave the big crowd quite a thrill as he scored his first points since early January on a layup in the closing seconds.
Hale played in 11 games before suffering a fractured right wrist that was expected to sideline him for the season.
But Hale recently had the cast removed and returned to practice. He entered the contest with just over two minutes remaining for his first game action since the injury.
"I was pretty nervous, but it was good to get in there," said Hale, who was leading the OVC in 3-point shooting at the time of his injury.
Said Southeast coach Gary Garner: "I'm just so happy for the seniors. All of them scored, and they can feel really good about their last home game."
Southeast, leading 26-25 at halftime, trailed 35-33 early in the second half before finally gaining control and pulling away.
Southeast shot a sizzling 64.5 percent in the second half (20 of 31) and finished at 53.4 percent (31 of 58). The Redhawks held UTM to 39.5 percent (17 of 43).
Junior forward Jared Newson paced the Skyhawks (6-21, 3-13) with 19 points and junior center Cleve Woodfork had 18.
"The last seven, eight minutes of the game was as well as we've played all year," Garner said. "We were really strong at the defensive end."
Southeast was left to contemplate what might have been as four of its OVC losses came by a total of 11 points, including two in overtime.
"If we hit a few more shots, we might be sitting here as OVC champions," Garner said.
But the Redhawks prefer to look ahead -- to the conference tournament.
"We feel like we can beat anybody in the tournament, and we feel like we can win it," Golson said.