Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team fades after quick start against SMU

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Southeast Missouri State head coach Dickey Nutt watches his team take on SMu in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. SMU won 84-65. (Laura Simon)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team got off to the kind of start it was looking for.

If only the Redhawks could have ended Monday's game after about 15 minutes.

Southeast led SMU most of the first half, including by 10 points, but the visiting Mustangs remained undaunted.

SMU, thanks largely to a barrage of 3-pointers and free throws, ended up routing Southeast 84-65 in front of an announced crowd of 1,662 at the Show Me Center.

The Redhawks fell to 4-7 as they suffered their third consecutive loss, the last two at the Show Me Center after they started the season with four straight home wins. SMU improved to 6-4.

Southeast Missouri State's Marland Smith looks to shoot as SMU's Leslee Smith defends during the first half Monday at the Show Me Center. Smith scored a season-high 22 points. (Laura Simon)

"A good start. We put together 15 minutes. ... See if we can't bottle that," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

Sophomore forward Tyler Stone hit three of his first four shots and junior guard Marland Smith nailed his first four shots, including two 3-pointers.

Throw in a couple of 3-pointers from junior guard Nick Niemczyk and it added up to a 25-15 lead about 11 minutes into the game.

"We just came out with the right energy and mindset," Stone said. "We just let it slip away. We lost focus with what we were supposed to be doing."

Southeast led for the first 15-plus minutes of the game, thanks to the hot shooting and only a few turnovers.

LEFT: Southeast Missouri State's Corey Wilford makes a layup during the first half. Wilford scored 11 points off the bench. (ABOVE: Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt watches his team during the second half of Monday's game at the Show Me Center. SMU won 84-65.)

But SMU turned up its defensive pressure, forcing several turnovers late in the half. The Mustangs scored the final seven points to go up 38-33 at the break.

"I thought the last four minutes [of the half] kind of dictated the game," Nutt said. "I thought we had some careless turnovers. Their pressure bothered us. I thought their length bothered us."

Junior guard London Giles helped keep SMU afloat in the opening period, hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers and scoring 16 points.

Then it was time for SMU's star, senior forward Robert Nyakundi, to take over.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Nyakundi, shooting better than 46 percent from 3-point range and averaging more than 15 points, scored just five points in the first half.

against SMU Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. SMU won 84-65. (Laura Simon)

Nyakundi, who missed his first two 3-point attempts, made three consecutive from beyond the arc in a span of barely one minute early in the final period.

He tacked on three free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer, giving him 12 points during a 15-3 run that turned a 40-37 lead into a 55-40 bulge less than five minutes into the half.

"We already knew [Nyakundi] could shoot it. He didn't make very many in the first half," Smith said. "They had two of them. The first half Giles lit it up, and the second half Nyakundi took up the slack."

Nyakundi finished with 29 points. He made 5 of 9 3-pointers.

Giles, averaging nearly 13 points and shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, ended with 24 points. He made 5 of 8 from long range.

"They've got two great players on their team," Nutt said. "They're a good team. Nothing bothered them. They got down by 10 and stayed cool and level-headed."

SMU led by at least 11 points for nearly the final 16 minutes of the game. The Mustangs' biggest advantage was 23 points.

The Mustangs hit 12 of 27 3-pointers, with Nyakundi and Giles a combined 10 of 17.

SMU also made 24 of 33 free throws, while Southeast sank 14 of 20.

Smith had his second consecutive strong performance, scoring a season-high 22 points and adding five assists. He had 21 points in Southeast's previous game.

"I thought Marland had a good night," Nutt said.

Stone finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. He added three blocks.

Junior college transfer guard Corey Wilford matched his season high with 11 points off the bench.

All-conference senior forward Leon Powell was in foul trouble most of the night and played just 16 minutes before fouling out with 9 minutes, 24 seconds left. He scored only six points.

"They weren't going to let him touch the ball," Nutt said. "We didn't match their toughness. We're just way too soft right now."

Senior walk-on Logan Nutt, the coach's oldest son, got his first start at point guard. He had four assists in 19 minutes before leaving with a calf injury.

Sophomore Lucas Nutt, the coach's youngest son who had started the first 10 games at point guard, came off the bench and played 16 minutes.

Coach Nutt said Lucas did not start because he still is bothered by a thigh bruise that has slowed him recently.

Senior guard Marcus Brister, who missed the previous contest with a knee injury, played five second-half minutes.

"It was encouraging to see Marcus in there," coach Nutt said.

The Redhawks visit Sacramento State (5-5) on Thursday night in a return from last year's BracketBuster meeting at the Show Me Center won by Southeast 67-52.

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