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Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team sees upset bid fall short vs. Mizzou
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Southeast Missouri State threatened Missouri like few visiting nonconference teams have over the years.
The Tigers answered every challenge -- and showed Southeast why they are ranked 11th and 12th in the two major national polls.
Southeast led by 10 points at halftime and by 11 points early in the second half before MU used several big runs to pull away 81-65.
An announced crowd of 7,905 at Mizzou Arena saw the Tigers improve to 7-1 with their 70th consecutive nonconference home victory Tuesday night.
"We let 'em get away, honestly," Southeast junior forward Tyler Stone said. "We didn't bring it the second half. The first half we brought it."
The Redhawks fell to 6-5 and had their three-game winning streak snapped.
"A tale of two halves," said Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad finished a stretch that had it playing seven of eight games away from Cape Girardeau. "There's a reason why they're ranked 11th in the country. They're big, they're good. They've got a lot of horses.
"This was a tremendous experience for us. Our guys look forward to a game like this. This is our Super Bowl game. I'm proud of our team. We showed we can compete."
Southeast did more than compete during a first half that saw the Redhawks silence most of half-full Mizzou Arena.
MU scored the first four points but never led the rest of the half. There were six ties, Southeast breaking the last one on a Stone 3-pointer that put the Redhawks on top 26-23 with just over six minutes left.
The Redhawks stunned MU a short time later with a 10-0 run that featured two 3-pointers by senior guard Nick Niemczyk and four points by senior guard Corey Wilford. Wilford's fast-break layup with 4:52 remaining made it 38-27.
"I think we came out with a solid first half," Wilford said. "We were just running our offense, being patient."
Southeast carried a 45-35 lead into the break thanks to 55.2-percent shooting (16 of 29), including 53.3-percent accuracy from 3-point range (8 of 15).
Wilford had 14 first-half points, hitting 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. Niemczyk and junior point guard Lucas Nutt each made both of their 3-point attempts. Stone added 11 points.
"I thought the first half we played hard, we were patient, we shot the ball well," said Dickey Nutt, whose team held MU to 40 percent from the field in the opening period. "We really played a good first half."
That all changed in the second half as the Tigers turned up their defensive pressure and got aggressive offensively to turn the game around. Southeast struggled to find the basket much of the half as MU outscored the Redhawks 42-15 over the final 18 minutes.
"They were getting too many open 3's [in the first half]," MU senior forward Laurence Bowers said. "We executed our offense and played great defense [in the second half.]"
MU took its first lead since the early going when Bowers scored inside to make it 57-56 with 10 minutes, 56 seconds remaining.
It was 67-58 with just under eight minutes left. The Redhawks briefly regrouped, cutting the deficit to 67-62, but MU surged again.
Senior guard Keion Bell's alley-oop dunk off a pass from senior point guard Phil Pressey with 4:15 to play established the Tigers' first double-digit lead at 73-62.
The Tigers then made a 12-0 run to open the night's biggest advantage of 79-62,
"In the second half they turned up their defense. I was disappointed we didn't respond as good as we should have," Dickey Nutt said. "There was a six-minute stretch where we just couldn't score."
MU owned all the second-half statistics. The Tigers shot 51.9 percent (14 of 27), held Southeast to 26.7 percent (8 of 30) -- including 1 of 11 3-pointers (9.1 percent) -- and outrebounded Southeast 28-9. MU had a 42-22 bulge on points in the paint for the night.
"We knew they'd come out on a run [in the second half]," Wilford said. "I think we relaxed in the second half. We didn't come out as strong as we should have."
Wilford went scoreless in the second half and attempted just two shots. Foul trouble hurt as he played only eight second-half minutes.
"They put a bigger guard on me. I really wasn't getting that many open looks," Wilford said.
Wilford's 14 points led Southeast. He has reached double figures in seven of his last eight games.
Stone scored just two second-half points and finished with 13. Sophomore forward Nino Johnson also had 13 points, nine in the final period. They each grabbed seven rebounds.
Bowers, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, had a huge performance with 26 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He hit 10 of 18 field goals, including both his 3-pointers.
"He had a good game. I commend him. He's a friend," said Stone, who played with Bowers as an MU freshman before transferring to Southeast. Both are natives of Memphis, Tenn.
Three other players scored in double figures for MU, which became the first team to shoot better than 40 percent against Southeast this season. The Tigers finished at 44.8 percent compared to 40.7 for the Redhawks.
"I commend them for a job well done," Dickey Nutt said. "They did what it took to win."
Despite the loss, Wilford believes the Redhawks gained a measure of respect.
"I think we did. We feel like we can play with anybody in the country," he said.