Colonels pull rank on Redhawks in semifinal round

Saturday, March 5, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Southeast Missouri State's first appearance in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament semifinals since 1999-2000 will not exactly go down as a memorable experience.

The sixth-seeded Redhawks had arguably their worst offensive performance of the season and never threatened second-seeded Eastern Kentucky during a 69-52 loss at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Friday night.

Southeast (15-14) ends its first winning season since 2000-01, while EKU (21-8) advances to today's 3 p.m. championship game against fifth-seeded Austin Peay, which upset top-seeded Tennessee Tech 67-61 in the other semifinal.

"We had a bad night tonight, a really bad night," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "But I don't want to take anything away from Eastern Kentucky. They deserved to win."

Southeast's top two scorers, senior forwards Dainmon Gonner and Reggie Golson, combined for 40 points, which is more than they provide on the season. Golson (16.6 ppg) had 23 while Gonner (20.4 ppg) added 17.

But the rest of the Redhawks scored just 12 points. as the team fell nearly 20 points below its season average of 71.1. Only a late flurry allowed Southeast to surpass its season low of 50 points.

"We just never got anything going, especially on the offensive end of the floor," Garner said.

Said Gonner, the OVC's leading scorer: "We weren't being patient on offense. A lot of times we shot too quick."

The Redhawks entered the contest as one of the OVC's top shooting squads, hitting 47.2 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. Friday, those figures were 34.5 percent (19 of 55) and 15.4 percent (two of 13).

Golson shot nine of 19 and Gonner six of 15 -- both below their season averages -- and the rest of the squad was a woeful four of 21.

"Sometimes the shots just don't go in," said senior guard Derek Winans, who was Southeast's third-leading scorer with seven points as he shot three of nine. "We had a lot of good looks."

Southeast held just two leads all night, 2-1 and 4-3 in the opening moments. EKU used a 6-0 run to go up 9-4 and pretty much had control the rest of the way.

The Redhawks were within 24-21 late in the first half, but the Colonels closed the period with an 11-2 run to lead 35-23 at the break. Gonner and Golson both had 10 first-half points; the rest of the squad added three.

Things didn't get any better for the Redhawks in the second half as the closest they got was 10 points, that at 45-35 with just over 13 minutes remaining.

Garner was hit with a technical a short time later with EKU up 47-35. Southeast was still within 53-41 with six minutes remaining, but the Redhawks could never muster enough offense to make things interesting.

EKU's biggest lead was 65-44 with 1:34 left and only garbage time allowed Southeast to better its previous season low scoring total.

"Any team could beat any team in this conference, but they just came out and beat us tonight," Golson said. "Unfortunately we didn't make our shots."

Junior guard Matt Witt paced EKU with 19 points and junior guard Zach Ingles added 16. The Colonels shot 47.3 percent (26 of 55) as they head to their first OVC tournament final since 1991-92.

"When you're playing a team like SEMO that has two scorers like Gonner and Golson, it's hard to stop that," EKU coach Travis Ford said. "We wanted to stop the other guys. I think we did that. Our guards did a great job."

One highlight for Southeast was Gonner breaking Southeast's single-season steals record as his five thefts give him 74, surpassing the previous mark of 71 by Dwayne Rutherford in 1988-89.

But overall it was a bummer of a way to end a season that had plenty of highs after a slow start.

"This team has overcome a lot," Garner said. "It's really sad we had to end it up this way tonight."

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