Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team falls out of second place

Sunday, February 5, 2012
Southeast Missouri State’s Marcus Brister drives to the basket between Tennessee State’s Patrick Miller, left, and M.J. Rhett as Michael Porter looks on during the first half Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast dropped into fourth place in the OVC with a 75-72 loss at home to Tennessee State

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team picked a bad time to have a rare lengthy scoring drought.

Tennessee State took full advantage to hand the Redhawks their first Ohio Valley Conference home loss of the season, 75-72 on Saturday night.

An announced season-high Show Me Center crowd of 3,500 saw Southeast fall to 12-11 overall and 7-4 in OVC play.

"We shouldn't have lost that game, we really shouldn't," Southeast junior guard Corey Wilford said. "We didn't make the plays down the stretch we needed to win."

Southeast, which suffered its second consecutive defeat, fell from second place to fourth in the 11-team OVC.

TSU (15-10, 8-4), which posted its fifth consecutive victory, moved into a second-place tie.

"I give them credit. They're one of the most talented teams in the league," said Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad had been 5-0 at home in OVC play and 9-2 at the Show Me Center overall. "It was really an outstanding crowd. We're just disappointed we didn't protect our home court."

Southeast, which fell behind 23-9 midway through the first half, rallied for a 35-30 halftime lead.

TSU went back ahead early in the second half but fell behind 58-51 with just under nine minutes left.

That's when the Redhawks went ice cold, going nearly six minutes without a point. TSU seized control with a 15-0 run and never relinquished the lead.

"That was pretty tough," Southeast junior guard Marland Smith said. "We were getting the looks we wanted, we just couldn't get them to fall."

Seven of the Tigers' 15 points during their game-changing burst came from the free-throw line, an area that was a sore spot for Nutt.

Nutt pondered the fact the visiting club attempted 26 foul shots in the second half to just one for the home side.

TSU finished the game 20 of 31 from the line, compared to 8 of 14 for Southeast.

"I think the most disappointing thing, we were trying to get to the free-throw line," Nutt said. "We shoot one free throw to their 26 in the second half. I'm concerned with a basketball game that's that lopsided."

Southeast also hurt itself with 17 turnovers, 10 in the second half. TSU committed just five turnovers in the contest.

"At times we start to do too much, that's when the turnovers start coming," Wilford said.

The Redhawks outrebounded TSU 49-35, but the teams each grabbed 20 rebounds in the second half.

"We still outrebounded them, but they got some crucial rebounds," Smith said.

Smith scored 16 points, moving within nine points of 1,000 for his Southeast career. He had 12 second-half points.

Wilford, continuing to emerge in the absence of junior guard Nick Niemczyk, reached a career-high point total for the second consecutive game.

Wilford, a junior college transfer, scored 16 points, 10 in the opening half. He hit 4 of 9 3-pointers.

"Corey continues to shoot the ball well," Nutt said.

Senior forward Leon Powell had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Lucas Nutt contributed 14 points, nine on three 3-pointers in the final 1 minute 17 seconds.

Senior point guard Marcus Brister, who entered play among the OVC's field-goal leaders at 58.9 percent, had trouble finishing around the basket and shot 1 of 11.

"He's trying to make something happen. He had a lot of length on him, a lot of deflections," coach Nutt said. "He didn't play as good as he's been playing."

Southeast shot just 40.9 percent and failed to take advantage of 24 offensive rebounds.

"We missed a lot of layups, a lot of put backs," coach Nutt said. "We couldn't capitalize on those offensive rebounds."

Nutt praised the play off freshman forward Nino Johnson, who had four points off the bench.

"One bright spot, I thought Nino Johnson was really outstanding," coach Nutt said.

Robert Covington, a 6-foot-9 junior forward who is the OVC's fourth-leading scorer at nearly 18 points per game, poured in 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for TSU.

Covington had 15 points in the second half, playing all 20 minutes. He was limited to 11 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.

Junior forward Kellen Thornton's two free throws with 6:07 left put TSU up for good at 60-58.

After Southeast fell behind 66-58 following TSU's 15-0 run, Nutt's 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining made it 69-66.

Southeast's staff wanted a traveling call on TSU's next possession but didn't get it.

The Tigers missed a 3-pointer, but freshman forward M.J. Rhett scored on an offensive rebound and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 72-66 lead with 41 seconds left.

Southeast got no closer than four points until Nutt's 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"I didn't feel like we were on all cylinders tonight," coach Nutt said. "A lot of things weren't working tonight."

Niemczyk, who has been out with lingering symptoms from a concussion, missed his fifth consecutive game even though he was on the bench in uniform and coach Nutt said he was cleared to play.

The Redhawks return to action Thursday, hosting Tennessee-Martin in a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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