Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team falls to nationally ranked Murray State

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The fifth-largest crowd for a Southeast Missouri State home men's basketball game came to see the Redhawks beat a nationally ranked Division I opponent for the first time.

Murray State spoiled the party while giving itself plenty of reason to celebrate.

The Racers, who have grown accustomed to playing in front of sold-out arenas on the road, led most of the way and posted a fairly routine 75-66 victory Wednesday night.

Murray State defenders Ed Daniel, left, and Latreze Mushatt try to block a shot by Southeast Missouri State's Leon Powell in the first half Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

"I appreciate them from the bottom of my heart. The crowd was everything," Southeast senior point guard Marcus Brister said. "The outcome wasn't like we wanted it, but we thank them."

An announced 7,125 fans at the Show Me Center, which lists a capacity of 7,000, included several hundred MSU supporters who saw the Racers clinch the outright Ohio Valley Conference championship.

MSU (25-1, 13-1), ranked 14th and 16th in the two major national polls, already had secured at least a share of their third straight OVC regular-season title.

"That's a great feeling," MSU senior guard Donte Poole said. "At the beginning of the season, we said we want a ring. But we have more we want to accomplish."

Southeast, which hosted a ranked Division I opponent for the first time, fell to 0-10 all-time against ranked Division I foes.

The Redhawks' second loss of the season to the Racers was played in front of Southeast's first sellout since a record crowd announced at 7,241 saw the squads square off during Southeast's 1999-2000 NCAA tournament season.

It was just the fifth sellout for a Southeast men's basketball game at the Show Me Center.

"First of all, I appreciate our fans so much. You made it fun for us," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

Southeast (14-12, 9-5) remained third in the 11-team OVC but was eliminated from contention for the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament with two league games left.

The top two finishers earn byes into the semifinals of the eight-team OVC tournament. The next two finishers receive byes into the quarterfinals.

"A loss is a loss, but in the big picture ... we'll play them again," Southeast senior forward Leon Powell said, pointing to a possible third meeting in the conference tournament.

Southeast led MSU by six points at halftime and 11 points early in the second half of the Feb. 2 matchup in Murray, Ky., before the Racers took control with a 24-2 run on their way to an 81-73 victory.

The Redhawks didn't threaten MSU nearly as much this time. Southeast held three early leads, the largest being three points, but the Racers went ahead for good seven minutes into the game.

MSU led 32-22 at halftime, and Southeast got no closer than five points in the final period. The Racers' biggest advantage was 13 points.

"They're a really good basketball team," Nutt said. "They don't give you anything. You have to earn everything.

"We just never could get over the hump. You credit them for that. They have all the pieces. They're very good defensively."

MSU junior guard Isaiah Canaan, the heavy favorite to earn OVC player of the year honors, poured in 32 points against Southeast the first time.

Canaan, the league's No. 2 scorer at more than 19 points per game, got just nine points in the rematch on 2-of-11 shooting.

"We really tried to put a lot of emphasis on him. We did a super job on him," said Nutt, whose squad ran at least one extra player and sometimes more at Canaan every time he had the ball. "But I was worried about Donte Poole. He really hurt us."

Poole, MSU's No. 2 scorer at nearly 14 points per game, had been in a shooting slump. He broke out Wednesday by scoring 25 points.

"It shows our toughness, how deep we are as a team," Poole said. "Not every day is going to be Isaiah's day. Other people have to step up."

Poole scored 14 of MSU's 32 points in the first half. He hit 4 of 5 3-pointers.

"We tried to key in on Canaan. We ended up letting their next-best player go off," Southeast junior guard Corey Wilford said.

Southeast's leading scorer also was shut down, but the Redhawks couldn't compensate.

Sophomore forward Tyler Stone, who averaged 15 points entering the contest, was held scoreless for the first time in his rookie season at Southeast. He attempted just five field goals.

Southeast Missouri State fans wave a giant cardboard cut-out of head coach Dickey Nutt in the second half the of the Redhawk's game against Murray State Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Stone played only nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. He played just six minutes in the second half because Nutt didn't like the way he was performing.

"We never could get Tyler going," Nutt said. "We have good depth. When things aren't clicking well for you, other guys are coming in and playing their roles."

Southeast outscored MSU 44-24 on points in the paint in the first matchup. MSU had a 36-26 advantage this time.

"They got some tremendous post players," said MSU senior forward Ivan Aska, who had 14 points and nine rebounds. "That was really like the key to the game. Coach said keep them out of the paint."

The Redhawks made several second-half runs, but MSU always had an answer.

Southeast cut the deficit to five points early in the final period and again with less than seven minutes left. MSU came right back with six straight points to go ahead by 11.

The Redhawks got no closer than eight points until the final minute, when they pulled within six twice. The Racers hit 5 of 6 free throws in the last 40 seconds to ice the victory.

Southeast shot its second-lowest percentage of the season (37.3), while MSU shot 46.2 percent, including 52 percent in the second half.

"I thought we played really well, especially on the defensive end," said MSU coach Steve Prohm, whose Racers are the nation's only squad that has not lost a true road contest. "They were really locked in today."

Powell led Southeast with 13 points and eight rebounds. Wilford had 12 points, followed by sophomore guard Lucas Nutt with 11 and junior guard Marland Smith with 10.

"I told our team I'm disappointed we sent our fans home with a loss, but at the same time, I give our kids credit," coach Nutt said. "I thought our guys played as hard as they could."

Southeast plays its final nonconference game Saturday when it visits McNeese State for a 3 p.m. tipoff in the annual BracketBusters matchup.

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