Powell dominates in Southeast men's win

Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt reacts after a call in favor of the Redhawks during Monday's game. He earned his 200th career coaching win with the Redhawks' victory.

Leon Powell was determined to bounce back from his worst performance of the season.

Mission accomplished in a big way.

Powell's career-high 36 points helped the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team open its four-game Ohio Valley Conference homestand with an 82-75 win over Tennessee-Martin.

Monday night's triumph, in front of an announced crowd of 1,390 at the Show Me Center, gave Southeast a three-game OVC winning streak.

The triumph also lifted the Redhawks (4-11, 3-2) above the .500 mark in OVC play. Southeast is in sole possession of fifth place in the 10-team league and just percentage points out of third place.

Southeast Missouri State junior Leon Powell sails to the basket past UT-Martin defender Andres Irarrazabal during the first half Monday at the Show Me Center. (Laura Simon)

"We needed the win," said redshirt freshman point guard Lucas Nutt, who added of the three-game OVC winning streak: "It's good for our confidence."

Powell, a junior college transfer who sat out last year with a knee injury, is having an impressive rookie Division I season. He ranks among the OVC's top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage.

The 6-foot-7 junior forward entered Monday's game averaging 13 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 60.3 percent.

But Powell scored a season-low six points during Wednesday's loss at SMU, marking just the second time this season he has been held under double figures.

"I had to," Powell said about bouncing back.

Redhawks junior Cameron Butler reaches for the ball against UT-Martin during Monday's game.

Powell virtually was unstoppable against the Skyhawks (4-11, 0-4), hitting 11 of 13 shots. He also pulled down eight rebounds and had a career-high four blocks in 37 minutes.

"Definitely," said Powell when asked if the performance was the best of his young Southeast career.

Powell even was solid from the free-throw line, making 14 of 20 (70 percent).

That's a big improvement over his season average of 50.6 percent entering the night and his 4-for-10 showing at SMU.

"I'm a way better free-throw shooter than what the percentages say," said Powell, who has the highest-scoring game by an OVC player this season. "I've never shot this bad."

Southeast Missouri State freshman Lucas Nutt tries to avoid the block atempt by UT-Martin defender Mike Liabo during the second half Monday at the Show Me Center. (Laura Simon)

Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, who earned his 200th career victory, had nothing but praise for Powell.

"He was really outstanding," Nutt said. "I personally challenged him before the game. We were going to keep going to him."

Lucas Nutt also had a big game, scoring a career-high 22 points to go with six assists against just two turnovers in 35 minutes. He hit 8 of 10 free throws.

"He had an awesome game," Dickey Nutt said of his son. "He was under control. He's getting better and better."

Senior guard Anthony Allison added 13 points for Southeast, 11 in a first half that featured 19 points from Powell.

Southeast Missouri State junior Leon Powell takes a shot over UT-Martin defender Andres Irarrazabal during the second half Monday.

Senior forward Cameron Butler led Southeast with nine rebounds while junior guard Marcus Brister was solid with eight points, six rebounds, three assists and no turnovers.

Southeast had only 10 turnovers, its second-lowest total of the season, while shooting 47.3 percent and limiting UTM to 41.7 percent.

"Overall I thought we played good," coach Nutt said. "We played as hard as we could. Very few rushed shots and only 10 turnovers.

"Overall, defensively, it was one of our better performances. It was a super win."

Southeast led most of the way, including by 13 points several times in the opening half, but UTM rallied late in the period to close within 41-39 at the break.

The Skyhawks pulled into a 49-49 tie early in the second half, marking the first deadlock since 9-9.

Powell regained the lead on a putback with 13 minutes, 34 seconds left. That started a 6-0 run to boost the Redhawks into a 55-49 advantage.

It was 57-54 when Nutt scored five straight points -- on a 3-pointer and two free throws -- to put Southeast up 62-54 with just more than eight minutes left.

Powell's dunk at the 3:20 mark made it 74-62 for the biggest lead of the second half. The margin never sank to less than seven points after that.

"It started with practice," Powell said. "We had three good days of practice, hard and intense. It carried over."

Southeast continues its homestand Saturday against Eastern Illinois.