Redhawks get good reviews after loss to Racers

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team fell short of its upset bid at Murray State Thursday night, but the Redhawks' strong showing on national television netted plenty of positive publicity.

Leading the way during the 81-73 loss was senior forward Leon Powell's monster one-handed follow dunk early in the second half.

Powell's feat was No. 4 on ESPN SportsCenter's top 10 plays for Thursday, and the slam was compared to NBA star Blake Griffin's monumental jam from earlier in the week.

Southeast's performance, which featured a six-point halftime lead and an 11-point advantage early in the second half, drew positive reviews from the ESPNU broadcast crew that called the game and on the ESPNU college basketball wrapup shows later that night.

I'm sure Southeast fans are disappointed that the Redhawks could not finish the job, but credit the Racers -- the nation's lone undefeated Division I men's hoop squad ranked ninth and 10th in the two major national polls -- for taking charge in the second half.

The exciting, well-played game was witnessed by an announced crowd of 8,369 at 8,600-seat CFSB Arena. The noise in the building was deafening at times and the atmosphere was great for the entire contest.

Southeast will get another crack at the Racers when they come to Cape Girardeau on Feb. 15 for what will be the Redhawks' final home game of the season.

You know the Racers will bring loads of fans to the Show Me Center that night and it will be up to Southeast supporters to make sure the game doesn't seem like an MSU home contest.

Southeast suffered a 75-72 defeat to Tennessee State on Saturday, giving the Redhawks their first OVC home loss of the season and their first two-game losing streak in about six weeks.

Southeast is still very much in the running for second in the OVC despite the potentially costly setback against one of the teams it is fighting with for the crucial spot.

The top two finishers earn byes into the semifinals of the OVC tournament.

The Redhawks (12-11, 7-4) fell to fourth place in the 11-team conference with five league contests remaining, but they are just one-half game behind Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech, who are tied for second.

On the down side, the Redhawks have lost to both of those squads, which they only play once in the OVC's unbalanced schedule. That means those clubs hold potential tie-breakers over Southeast.

But for Southeast to be in the discussion for second place shows just how far coach Dickey Nutt has brought the Redhawks in a relatively short period of time. He took over a program that was at rock bottom.

I saw a dunk Friday in Jackson that almost measured up to Powell's highlight reel slam against Murray State.

Jackson senior John Meyer, like Powell, perfectly timed his leap on a teammate's missed shot and threw down a massive two-handed jam against Farmington.

That was one of three dunks by the 6-foot-9 Meyer, who has improved over the last couple of years about as much as any player I have seen in this area for quite a while.

Meyer has elevated his game so much that he is starting to draw at least mild Division I interest, although in order to reach that level he first might have to play at a junior college.

Two of the OVC's top players turned in record performances on the same night last week.

Tennessee Tech senior wing Kevin Murphy poured in a school-record 50 points Monday during a 98-80 win over SIU Edwardsville.

Murphy's 50-point game is one of just nine in OVC history and five points short of tying the all-time conference record. It marks the season's highest-scoring performance by a Division I men's player.

Tennessee-Martin sophomore guard Heather Butler pumped in a school-record 42 points in the high-scoring Skyhawks' 105-90 win against Tennessee State.

I recently wrote about former Southeast football coach Tim Billings being let go after six seasons as an assistant at Wake Forest.

Billings wasn't out of work long. He was hired to be the defensive line coach at Memphis last week.

Billings coached Southeast from 2000 through 2005. He went 25-43, including an 8-4 mark in 2002 that at the time was the program's best record since 1969. That performance garnered him OVC and region coach of the year.

Former Southeast football assistant Vincent White also has a new coaching job.

White, who was Southeast's offensive coordinator from 2006 through 2010, is now the assistant head coach/wide receivers coach at Fordham, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

White spent last year as an assistant at New Mexico but left after that Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) program had a coaching change.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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