Southeast men rally from 17 down to beat Eastern Illinois

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Southeast fans cheer on the Redhawks as they tie their game against Eastern Illinois in the second half Saturday, January 8, 2010 at the Show Me Center. Southeast defeated Eastern illinois 78-75. (Laura Simon)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team was staggered in the first half and still on the ropes with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.

But it was a unanimous decision over the final nine minutes for the Redhawks, who staged a furious rally to notch their fourth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference win.

Southeast wiped out a 17-point second-half deficit, including a 12-point hole with just more than nine minutes left, to upend Eastern Illinois 78-75.

Saturday's victory, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 2,252 at the Show Me Center, lifted the Redhawks (5-11, 4-2) into a three-way tie for second place in the 10-team OVC.

"To come back from 17 down feels real good," senior guard Anthony Allison said.

Southeast Missouri State's Cameron Butler sails to the basket between a pair of Eastern Illinois defenders during the second half Saturday. (Laura Simon)

The Redhawks already have surpassed their OVC win total from all last season, when they finished ninth in coach Dickey Nutt's first year.

Nutt warns that it's too early to get excited about the standings but not about Saturday's victory.

"I'm very proud of the guys. They showed a very strong sense of character to hang in there when everything was going against us," Nutt said. "Our locker room was so excited after the game. They had every right to be."

EIU (6-9, 2-3) had beaten Southeast five straight times, including three in a row at the Show Me Center.

It looked like the Panthers' streak would continue when they scored the first five points, built a quick 10-point lead, expanded it to 44-29 at halftime and to 53-36 early in the second half.

Southeast players congratulate each other after taking the lead during the second half Saturday at the Show Me Center.

"Our defensive energy wasn't right, wasn't where we needed it to be," redshirt freshman point guard Lucas Nutt said of EIU's hot shooting start that featured 48.6-percent accuracy in the opening period. "But they were hitting tough shots, too."

Southeast, which shot just 28 percent in the first half, began to surge offensively in the final period but still trailed 63-51 with just more than nine minutes left.

Then Southeast turned around things with a 15-0 run that featured plenty of offense and a resurgent defense.

"Defensive energy," sophomore guard Marland Smith said of the key to the comeback. "When we got on that run, we got four or five stops in a row. That really sparked us."

Smith's 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 50 seconds left made it 63-63, marking the first tie of the game since the tip.

Southeast junior Leon Powell(42) sails in for the lay up around Eastern Illinois defender James Hollowell in the second half Saturday, January 8, 2010 at the Show Me Center. Southeast defeated Eastern illinois 78-75. (Laura Simon)

Junior forward Leon Powell hit 1 of 2 free throws at the 6:22 mark to put the Redhawks ahead 64-63 for their first lead of the night.

Powell scored inside with 5:50 left to cap the 15-point outburst and make it 66-63.

"We just stayed positive," Allison said of the comeback. "The whole team, everybody kept talking that we weren't going to lose."

The Redhawks never relinquished the lead, although they had to hold off the Panthers down the stretch.

Southeast opened up its biggest advantage on Powell's three-point play with 3:07 left that made it 73-69.

BELOW: Southeast fans cheer on the Redhawks during their second-half rally. (ABOVE: Southeast coach Dickey Nutt smiles after his team rallied in the second half to defeat Eastern Illinois.)

Powell, the Redhawks' leading scorer and rebounder, fouled out 12 seconds later.

EIU pulled within two points three times but each time Southeast responded.

Senior forward Cameron Butler made two free throws at the 1:31 mark for a 75-71 lead.

After Allison hit 1 of 2 free throws with 35 seconds left, walk-on junior forward Rae-Vonn Banks made 1 of 2 foul shots with 12 seconds left for a 77-73 advantage.

"Rae-Vonn's free throw was big," coach Nutt said.

Southeast Missouri State senior Anthony Allison tries to get off a shot around Eastern Illinois defender Jeremy Granger during the second half Saturday. (Laura Simon)

It was 77-75 when Lucas Nutt hit 1 of 2 from the line with 5.2 seconds remaining.

EIU junior guard Jeremy Granger got a decent 3-point look, but his attempt only nicked the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

"We just played with a lot of heart," Lucas Nutt said. "We want to do something in the OVC this year."

All five Southeast starters scored in double figures, led by Powell's 17 points.

Powell had an interesting night. He got into early foul trouble and scored only two first-half points before emerging in the second half.

Powell also missed his first nine free throws but rallied to make three of his last four, all crucial.

"I told Leon after he missed the first nine that he was going to hit the next five," coach Nutt said.

Allison scored 16 points, 12 in the first half to help keep Southeast within range.

Nutt continued his strong play, just missing a double-double with 15 points and nine assists in a team-high 38 minutes. He scored 12 second-half points.

Butler, continuing to play through painful foot problems, had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He made all eight of his free throws.

Smith added 13 points, nine in the second half.

Southeast shot 57.7 percent in the final period and held EIU to 35.5 percent.

"We got so many contributions," coach Nutt said. "I'm just really proud."

The Redhawks also were proud of a crowd that made plenty of noise during the rally.

"They played a major factor," Smith said. "They brought that energy."

Southeast plays the third leg of its four-game OVC homestand Thursday against Morehead State.

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