The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team suffered its sixth straight Ohio Valley Conference loss Thursday night.
But the Redhawks made one of the OVC's top squads sweat until the very end.
Southeast appeared on the verge of being blown out of the Show Me Center when Eastern Kentucky built a 19-point lead early in the second half.
The Redhawks stormed back and had a chance to force overtime, but junior guard Anthony Allison missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer as EKU escaped with a 59-56 win.
"Coach just told us to go out in the second half with fire, energy. That's what we did," said Allison, who led all scorers with a career-high 20 points. "We got some stops, hit some shots but just fell short at the end."
Southeast (7-18, 3-11), which has dropped nine of its past 11 contests overall, remained eighth in the 10-team OVC.
The Redhawks lead ninth-place Tennessee State by one-half game. The top eight finishers make the conference tournament.
"I was really proud of our guys, the effort we displayed in the second half," first-year Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "We dug ourselves a hole. ... To be down 19 points and have a chance to win at the end, I told our guys I can live with it. You just give me that heart, that passion."
Third-place EKU (18-8, 10-4) swept the season series from Southeast, also winning 79-63 on Jan. 16 in Richmond, Ky. EKU coach Jeff Neubauer lauded the Redhawks' effort.
"SEMO did a great job of just fighting. They never gave up," Neubauer said. "They never gave in and made it a heck of a game. Their team really is competing."
Southeast fell behind 8-0 and fought an uphill struggle the rest of the night.
EKU, ahead 36-23 at halftime, built a 48-29 margin in the first six minutes of the second half.
But the Redhawks limited EKU to 11 points the rest of the way as they staged a furious comeback.
Nutt credited a box-and-one defense designed to limit junior forward Justin Stommes, EKU's top scorer who had 12 first-half points but only finished with 14.
The Redhawks chipped away but still were down by 10 points at 56-46 with about five minutes left when they made their final push.
A mid-range jumper by freshman guard Derek Thompson with just more than three minutes remaining pulled Southeast to 56-52.
Allison hit two free throws at the 1:50 mark to make it 56-54, then Southeast got a stop on the defensive end.
Thompson's 3-point attempt with 50 seconds left rimmed out then EKU senior forward Josh Taylor drove for a layup that made it 58-54 with 20 seconds left.
Junior guard Sam Pearson nailed two free throws with 14 seconds left to bring the Redhawks within 58-56.
EKU senior guard Papa Oppong hit 1 of 2 foul shots a second later for a 59-56 advantage.
Thompson misfired on an ill-advised 3-pointer from well beyond the arc with 9 seconds left.
"Obviously it wasn't the shot we wanted," Thompson said. "It was a pretty deep shot. ... I knew they would be defending the 3. ... I was just trying to get any look I could."
The Redhawks weren't done as Taylor missed two free throws with 5 seconds left.
Southeast junior forward Eric McCrary grabbed the rebound and the Redhawks quickly broke up court before whistles stopped play because the clock never started.
After a meeting between the officials that lasted several seconds, Southeast was given the ball near midcourt with 3.3 seconds still remaining.
Nutt said he would have liked to have seen what might have happened without the stoppage in play.
"We were pedal to the metal," he said. "It was unfortunate when the clock stopped, but we still got a good shot."
McCrary inbounded to Allison, who took a few dribbles and got a good look at a straight-on 3-pointer from just beyond the arc. It hit the left side of the rim.
"It looked good. ... I probably rushed it a little bit," Allison said.
EKU, second in the OVC in free-throw shooting at 73.3 percent entering Thursday's game, helped Southeast by making just 7 of 17 (41.2 percent), including 4 of 12 in the second half.
"We're usually very good free throw shooters," Neubauer said. "We gave away a lot of points at the line tonight."
Allison was Southeast's lone player to score in double figures. Senior forward LaMont Russell grabbed 10 rebounds.
Southeast got a lift off the bench from freshman guard LaQuentin Miles, whose five first-half points led the squad. He had two steals, one leading to his fast-break dunk.
"He was the spark we needed to get us going," Nutt said. "He did a good job offensive and defensively."