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Redhawks men's basketball team: Current OVC streak - 1 win
Southeast's men beat Tennessee State for their first conference win since Jan. 29, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team has put another negative streak in its rearview mirror.
Southeast ended the nation's longest active conference losing streak Saturday night by holding off host Tennessee State 74-66.
"It feels real good," junior college transfer guard Anthony Allison said. "The first conference win, everybody doubted us. It's great."
It had been nearly two full calendar years since Southeast last won an Ohio Valley Conference game, Jan. 29, 2008 to be exact.
Saturday's triumph snapped Southeast's 26-game OVC losing skid that is a league record.
Eighteen of the defeats came during last year's winless OVC season, when 11 of Southeast's players and the entire coaching staff weren't with the program.
"Man, it's great," junior college transfer guard Sam Pearson said. "To finally get the program the first conference win in almost two years."
Southeast improved to 3-6 overall and evened its league record at 1-1. The Redhawks already have matched their victory total from last season's 3-27 debacle.
"This feels good, my first conference win," said senior forward LaMont Russell, one of only four returning players from last season. "We really wanted to win this game. We were focused."
"I was so proud and pleased with our team," said Southeast first-year coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad earlier this season snapped the program's 21-game losing streak that had been the nation's longest. "The way they hung in there. Any time you can get a conference win on the road, it's big."
Like Southeast, TSU (1-8, 0-2) is rebuilding with a new coaching staff and only four returning players.
The Tigers also were shorthanded Saturday as their top scorer (junior forward Josh Sain, 13.1 points per game) and top rebounder (junior forward Darius Cox, 5.6 average) did not see action for violating team rules.
Southeast took advantage by never trailing after scoring seven straight points to break a 2-2 tie.
It was 31-17 at the break as Southeast held an opponent to less than 20 first-half points for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.
"We got off to a really good start," Nutt said.
The Redhawks built a 42-23 lead early in the second half but had to survive a furious TSU rally that saw the Tigers pull to within three points three times.
TSU was down just 70-66 and had the ball with less than 30 seconds left. The Tigers missed a 3-point shot and got no closer.
"We knew they'd make a run. They're a good team," Pearson said.
Allison led Southeast with 18 points as he hit 4 of 5 3-pointers.
Pearson had 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Freshman guard Marland Smith added 14 points, the top total of his young college career.
Allison and Pearson were particularly strong down the stretch to help Southeast hold off TSU.
Allison twice hit 3-pointers immediately after TSU had sliced its deficit to three points. He also drilled a 17-footer at the end of the shot clock with just over three minutes left to put Southeast up 66-57.
Pearson hit 12 of 12 second-half free throws, including two with 21 seconds left that made it 72-66.
Southeast was 20 of 24 from the line in the final period.
"Sam and Anthony were really outstanding," Nutt said. "I told them the game balls go to you two."
The Redhawks shot 50 percent from the field (23 of 46) and held a 39-30 rebounding advantage.
"It's really a great win," Nutt said.
Southeast returns to action Wednesday night, hosting regional rival Southern Illinois-Carbondale in a nonconference game Jan. 29.