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Redhawks, Nutt debut with win
Southeast beat Harris-Stowe 75-67 in exhibition play
The Dickey Nutt era at Southeast Missouri State began with a win Thursday night.
It wasn't pretty and it officially won't count, but the Redhawks weren't about to complain.
After ending last season with 19 straight defeats -- the nation's longest losing streak among NCAA Division I men's basketball teams entering this year -- the Redhawks were pleased to experience any type of victory, even in an exhibition.
Southeast opened its two-game exhibition schedule by holding off Harris-Stowe 75-67 in front of nearly 1,500 fans at the Show Me Center. The NAIA Hornets from St. Louis went 8-22 last season.
"It was rough, but a win is a win," said senior center Israel Kirk, among four returning players who experienced last year's 3-27 debacle that featured an 0-18 Ohio Valley Conference record. "We need wins. Wins are always fun.
"We're not complaining. We'll take it. We want to get in the habit of winning."
Nutt, Southeast's first-year coach, felt pretty much the same.
"It wasn't pretty. My hat's off to Harris-Stowe. Those guys hit big shots," Nutt said. "But all in all we're glad to win the game."
Four players scored in double figures for the Redhawks, led by freshman guard Derek Thompson with a game-high 17 points.
Thompson, who did not start, provided a major boost from long range as he hit 5 of 10 3-pointers. He had 11 second-half points to help Southeast break away from a 33-33 halftime tie.
"I could have done better, but I was feeling all right," said Thompson, a native of Detroit. "I'm a shooter. I know my shot will fall. It's never a confidence issue with me."
Thompson and fellow freshman guard Marland Smith, who started Thursday, combined for all eight of Southeast's successful 3-pointers.
Smith, who is from Little Rock, Ark., made 3 of 8 from beyond the arc, including 3 of 6 in the first half when he scored all nine of his points. He also tied junior college transfer point guard Anthony Allison for game-high assist honors with five.
While Nutt said Thompson and Smith have plenty of catching up to do defensively, they already are solid offensive threats.
"Those young guys really shot the ball well," Nutt said. "Those guys can put the ball in the basket."
Junior forward Cameron Butler, who played his first two seasons at Division II Southern Arkansas before transferring to Southeast from a junior college, scored 11 points in a starting role.
Allison and fellow junior college transfer guard Sam Pearson both scored 10 points. Both started Thursday.
"It's better to have an ugly win than a pretty loss. Overall it was good to get the win," Allison said. "We're just trying to get all the fans behind us, let them know there are more wins to come."
Pearson, who played his freshman season at OVC member Tennessee-Martin, hit 6 of 6 free throws in the final 2 minutes, 4 seconds after Harris-Stowe cut a 13-point deficit to a basket.
Kirk came off the bench to grab a game-high 13 rebounds as Southeast outrebounded the Hornets by 10 in the second half after trailing by eight on the boards at the intermission.
Kirk also scored six points and blocked two shots.
"Israel really showed his presence inside," Nutt said.
Returning junior forward JaJuan Maxwell, who rounded out Thursday's starters, added six points and five rebounds.
Junior college transfer forward Eric McCrary had six points and seven rebounds off the bench.
There were nine ties and eight lead changes in the opening period.
Southeast broke the halftime tie with a 12-2 run to start the second half. Thompson's 3-pointer midway through the period made it 58-45 for the game's biggest advantage.
The Hornets used an 18-7 run to pull within 65-63 with just over two minutes left before the Redhawks held on.
"I thought in the second half we made better adjustments," Nutt said. "Rebounding was a big thing in the second half."
Southeast held Harris-Stowe to 39.3 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers. Southeast shot just 37.1 percent but had a respectable 13 turnovers.
The Redhawks were missing four players who Nutt hopes to have back on the court soon.
Returning senior forward LaMont Russell and returning senior wing Johnny Hill did not play due to lingering injuries. The same goes for freshman point guard Lucas Nutt, the coach's son.
Also not seeing action was junior college transfer forward Rae-Vonn Banks, who still is waiting to have his eligibility cleared by the NCAA.
Southeast plays its final exhibition game Tuesday night when it hosts Division II Ouachita Baptist.