Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team defeats McNeese St.

Friday, November 16, 2012
Southeast Missouri State forward Nino Johnson dunks during the first half against McNeese State at the Show Me Center. Southeast won 64-53. (Laura Simon)

Southeast Missouri State's outside shooting left plenty to be desired Thursday night as the Redhawks hit 4 of 19 from 3-point range.

Nino Johnson and Tyler Stone, along with another strong defensive performance, helped make that long-range futility a moot point.

Johnson and Stone, Southeast's athletic 6-foot-8, 230-pound forwards, continued their inside domination as the host Redhawks rolled past McNeese State 64-53.

"When we're not making shots we can always depend on the bigs to dominate inside," senior guard Marland Smith said. "That's our game plan every night, get those bigs going."

An announced Show Me Center crowd of 2,125 saw Southeast improve to 2-1 with its second straight home victory. The game was never in doubt as the Redhawks led by double figures most of the final half.

Southeast Missouri State forward Tyler Stone sails in for a shot against McNeese State in the first half Thursday at the Show Me Center. Southeast won 64-53. (Laura Simon)

"I think it was a good, solid win," Stone said. "It was a little test, coach called it."

The Redhawks avenged a 13-point loss to the Cowboys (1-2) last season in Lake Charles, La.

"This is a good win. This is a game we lost last year," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "I was very pleased with how we played for the most part."

Southeast figured to have an advantage inside, with Johnson and Stone going up against the Cowboys' smaller front line.

That's exactly how things played out as the Redhawks' dynamic duo combined for 38 points and 16 rebounds while making 17 of 22 field-goal attempts.

Southeast Missouri State’s A.J. Jones lines up with his teammates on an inbound play during Thursday’s game against McNeese St.

Johnson, an emerging sophomore who saw limited action last year, had his third straight impressive performance. He has established a new career high for points in all three games.

Johnson scored 20 points and just missed his second consecutive double-double with nine rebounds. He hit 9 of 11 shots and added three blocks, two assists and two steals.

"They did have some smaller bigs," said Johnson, who is averaging a double-double of 15.3 points and 11 rebounds.

Stone had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists without a turnover. The all-Ohio Valley Conference junior, who hit 8 of 11 shots, is averaging 17 points to go along with 6.3 rebounds.

"We did what we was supposed to do," Stone said. "We dominated the inside, showed a lot of patience."

The six assists Stone and Johnson combined for primarily came when one was being double-teamed and found the other for an easy basket.

"They did a lot of doubling if we caught it in the post," Johnson said. "It's really about finding that open man."

Stone and Johnson combined for 39 points and 21 rebounds while hitting 16 of 22 shots during Monday's blowout of NAIA opponent Lyon but Thursday's performance, against a fellow Division I team, carried more weight.

"I'm really proud of our bigs. Nino Johnson and Tyler Stone certainly deserve a lot of credit," said Nutt, whose squad had a 34-10 advantage on points in the paint. "Nino and Tyler are doing a really good job of working hard and getting open. And they're taking good shots. You don't see a lot of wild shots."

Southeast's other six players who saw action Thursday combined to shoot just 10 of 28 and score 26 points.

Senior guard Nick Niemczyk, a Bell City High School graduate, added 10 points off the bench. He also had four assists against no turnovers.

Niemczyk hit 4 of 8 shots, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Both his 3-pointers came late after McNeese had made a mini-run.

"Nick came in and hit some big shots, especially hitting a couple of shots late," Nutt said.

The Redhawks, despite struggling from long distance, shot 54 percent (27 of 50) and held the perimeter-oriented Cowboys to 35.7 percent (20 of 56).

"We're hanging our hats defensively. That's a big thing for us," Nutt said.

Southeast actually started off slow, falling behind 9-2.

"We didn't come out with a lot of intensity, but we picked it up," Smith said.

There were four ties and three lead changes in the first half. McNeese held its final advantage at 20-19 with under seven minutes left when the Redhawks took control.

Stone's mid-range jumper with 6 minutes, 3 seconds remaining put Southeast ahead 21-20 and began a 14-4 run to end the half.

Johnson and Stone combined for 12 points and three dunks in the spurt as the Redhawks led 33-24 at the break.

Southeast continued to roll in the second half. Johnson and Stone combined for the Redhawks' first 10 points in less than five minutes as they went ahead 43-28.

The Redhawks' biggest lead was 52-31 with just under 12 minutes left. McNeese cut the deficit to 10 points twice late but never seriously threatened.

"We kind of relaxed a little bit. They got back in the game," Smith said. "But we closed it out all right."

Southeast returns to action Sunday with a 2 p.m. game at Chattanooga. The Redhawks also play Louisiana Tech Monday and Troy Tuesday in Chattanooga as part of the CBE Classic.

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