Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team misses bye in first round of the OVC tournament

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team continued its futility in Clarksville, Tenn., on Saturday night.

Southeast ended the regular-season campaign with a season-high four-game losing streak and will have to play in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament as a result.

Southeast lost at Austin Peay 68-59, a place where the Redhawks have suffered 13 straight losses and have not won since the 1998-99 season.

The Redhawks (14-15, 9-7) still tied for fourth place in the 11-team OVC, their best conference finish since the NCAA tournament squad of 1999-2000 gained a share of the league title.

"That's something the team can be proud of," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said.

Southeast is the No. 5 seed for the eight-team OVC tournament that begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. The Redhawks will face eighth-seeded Eastern Kentucky at 6 p.m.

A win Saturday would have given the Redhawks a first-round tournament bye that goes to the top four seeds.

Nutt thought his club showed plenty of fire despite the latest loss to Austin Peay (12-19, 8-8), which the Redhawks beat 65-60 on Jan. 26 in Cape Girardeau.

Nutt had questioned his team's intensity following Thursday's 10-point loss at Jacksonville State.

"I'm always disappointed with a loss. I'm the worst loser in the world," Nutt said. "But I was very proud of our team. I told them that after the game.

"I was concerned if we had anything left in the tank. We did. I challenged them to step up. I thought we got back to playing hard tonight."

Southeast, which has been strong offensively most of the year, continued to struggle in that area. The Redhawks tied their season-low point total for the second straight game.

The Redhawks shot 40.4 percent from the field and hit just 2 of 10 3-pointers (20 percent).

Austin Peay shot 47.8 percent and made 8 of 16 3-pointers (50 percent).

The Redhawks started strong and lead 7-2 early. They built a pair of eight-point advantages in the first half. The Govs closed the period with a 6-0 run to pull within 25-24 at the break.

Things remained tight the rest of the way. There were nine lead changes and six ties.

The Govs finally went ahead for good at 54-52 on senior forward Melvin Baker's jumper with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.

Southeast missed two free throws, and a Baker 3-pointer made it 57-52.

A turnover by the Redhawks was followed by a 3-pointer from senior guard TyShwan Edmondson that opened a 60-52 bulge with 1:48 left.

The Redhawks got no closer than five points the rest of the way.

"They hit a couple of really big shots," Nutt said. "It was a much closer game than nine points."

Senior forward Leon Powell bounced back from some recent struggles to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds.

"I thought Leon Powell was a monster," Nutt said.

Sophomore forward Tyler Stone scored 11 points, and junior guard Marland Smith added 10.

Edmondson hit 6 of 7 from beyond the arc and scored 25 points. Baker added 22 points.

"We had our chances," Nutt said. "Give Austin Peay credit. They're very tough to beat here."

Looking ahead to the conference tournament, Southeast lost its only meeting with Eastern Kentucky this season, 63-59 on Jan. 7 in Richmond, Ky.

The Redhawks beat the Colonels in the opening round of last year's tournament before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.

"I feel we're just as good as anybody in the tournament," Nutt said. "March Madness, it's the most fun time of the year."

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