The Southeast MEN defeated Norfolk State 75-54 on Sunday
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team clicked on all cylinders Sunday to notch its second win of the season.
Southeast dominated Norfolk State 75-54 on the final day of the Basketball Travelers Classic in Normal, Ill.
The Redhawks improved to 2-5 and snapped a three-game losing streak. They won just three games all of last season.
"We're very, very pleased," Southeast first-year coach Dickey Nutt said. "I told our team don't ever underestimate how precious a win is. They're hard to come by."
Nutt was especially pleased by how the Redhawks bounced back after being routed by strong opponents during their first two games of the four-team event.
Southeast lost to St. Bonaventure 67-44 on Friday, then fell 93-53 to host Illinois State on Saturday. Those squads are a combined 10-2 after Illinois State (6-0) beat St. Bonaventure (4-2) for the title on Sunday 80-77.
"We were pounded the first two days, and it's been a long trip," Nutt said. "It could have been real easy to dump your head and say I'm ready to get back home, but we were business as usual no matter what the storm was the last couple of days.
"I think we improved every day and we played our best basketball the third day."
Several first-year players had the best performances of their young Southeast careers.
Junior forward Cameron Butler had his first double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, both season highs. He hit 8 of 12 shots while adding two blocks and two assists.
"Cameron came up big for us," Nutt said. "He's really showing signs of improvement night in and night out."
Junior guard Sam Pearson led Southeast with a season-high 21 points to go along with five rebounds and a team-leading four assists. Pearson hit 7 of 12 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
"Sam really controlled the tempo of our basketball team offensively and defensively," Nutt said.
Freshman guard Marland Smith scored a season-high 13 points, all in the first half as Southeast led 37-25 at the break. Smith hit 5 of 10 shots, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.
"Marland helped us get out of the block. He really had an outstanding first half," Nutt said. "And he played well the second half, he just didn't have any points."
Southeast shot a season-high 50 percent (25 of 50) and committed a season-low 18 fouls.
"We really were able to cut down on our fouling. Part of that is we played a lot of zone," Nutt said. "On offense we really moved the ball well so we got good shots. And our transition game was good."
For the first time this year, the Redhawks attempted more free throws than the opposition, although they made just 20 of 34 (58.8 percent).
"Our free-throw shooting was one sore spot," Nutt said. "We've got to get a lot more consistent."
Southeast was solid defensively, holding the Spartans (1-5) to 38.5-percent shooting. The Redhawks also held a 38-34 rebounding advantage.
Much of the first half was tight as there were eight lead changes before Southeast went ahead for good on two free throws by junior guard Anthony Allison. That made it 22-20 with 7 minutes, 49 seconds left.
The Redhawks never really looked back, although Norfolk State did score the first eight points of the second half to pull within 37-33.
It was 39-35 when Southeast used an 11-0 run to go up 50-35. The lead never dipped below double figures and the Redhawks' biggest advantage was 21 points.
"I was really proud of the guys, to win convincingly like we did," Nutt said.
Southeast begins Ohio Valley Conference play Thursday at Austin Peay.
"This really puts a good taste in our mouths as we get ready to start the conference," Nutt said.