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Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team leapfrogs Kangaroos in final minute
Southeast records a 66-65 victory over UMKC
Junior forward Tyler Stone and sophomore forward Nino Johnson provided the final heroics Saturday afternoon as the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team pulled out a thrilling road win.
Stone hit two free throws with 28 seconds left to give the Redhawks a 66-65 lead over the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
That stood up as the final score when Johnson blocked a 3-point attempt by UMKC guard Estan Tyler in the closing seconds. The Kangaroos got up one more desperation attempt at the buzzer, but it missed everything.
"It's a great win for us," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "It wasn't pretty in the second half, but we'll take it. We were fortunate to get the win. We really showed a lot of resiliency, a lot of toughness."
The Redhawks improved to 8-6 with their second straight victory. Southeast clinched its first nonconference winning record since the 2003-04 season, and Southeast also has its most nonconference victories since the 2000-01 squad went 10-4 in nonleague play.
"We're real proud of that. I feel like we're making progress," said Nutt, whose squad will enter Ohio Valley Conference play with a winning record and a two-game winning streak for the first time during his four seasons. "And I feel like we're an eyelash away from being 10-4 or 11-3. We've lost some close games but we'll take it."
Stone, an all-OVC performer, has improved his free-throw shooting tremendously since last season. That paid off Saturday.
Southeast, which led most of the way, found itself behind 65-64 after UMKC's Kirk Korver drilled a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left.
The Redhawks missed a shot, but Stone grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled going back up. He calmly sank both attempts and finished the day 8 of 8 from the line.
Stone shot 62 percent from the charity stripe a year ago but is among the OVC's top free-throw shooters this season at 86.7 percent.
"Tyler has worked hard to become a better free-throw shooter, and it shows," Nutt said. "For Tyler to step up and hit those free throws was huge."
Johnson struggled offensively and didn't see as much action as usual, with walkon redshirt freshman forward Jacob Tolbert from Notre Dame Regional High School providing 11 minutes off the bench. Tolbert pulled down five rebounds.
But Johnson, the OVC's top shot-blocker, came through with his defensive play at the end. His third block of the game gave him 39 this year and moved him into a tie for ninth place on the school's single-season list.
"Jacob did a very good job. Nino didn't have the game we expected, but at the end you want your shot blockers in the game," Nutt said. "It was a great block. We made a stop to win the game. I told the guys to get a stop to win the game on the road was fantastic."
Stone had another big performance with 28 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 38 minutes. He hit 10 of 17 field-goal attempts.
Senior guard Corey Wilford continued to provide offensive punch from the backcourt with 15 points. He also had six rebounds and six assists.
Junior point guard Lucas Nutt also had another strong game with nine points, five assists and two steals.
Nutt surpassed the 300-assist milestone for his Southeast career -- he ranks eighth in progam history -- while senior guard Marland Smith went over 200 career assists.
"Tyler had a big game. Lucas played very well and Corey hit some big shots," Dickey Nutt said.
Wilford's runner with 1:06 left gave Southeast a 64-62 lead before UMKC (4-8) surged back in front on Korver's 3-pointer.
Nutt's two late baskets put Southeast up 56-55 and 58-57. The lead grew to 62-57 before a 5-0 UMKC run forged a 62-62 tie and set the stage for the exciting finish.
"It's never easy to win on the road. I'm really proud of the guys," said Dickey Nutt, whose squad improved to 4-3 on the road. "We've won some big road games."
Southeast shot 46.2 percent and held UMKC to 34.9 percent. The Redhawks committed a season-low seven turnovers for the second straight game.
The Redhawks never trailed in the first half and carried a 32-24 lead into the break. There was only one tie in the opening period, at 3-3.
Southeast built a pair of 11-point advantages early in the second half before UMKC rallied.
The Kangaroos grabbed their first lead at 55-53 with 7:36 remaining, and the score stayed tight the rest of the way. The contest ended with six lead changes and six ties.
"I felt like we took UMKC's best shot, but I feel like the better team won," Nutt said. "But it could have gone either way."
Southeast returns to action at noon Saturday against Tennessee-Martin in its first OVC game. That contest begins a run of three straight home dates to begin the Redhawks' conference schedule.
"We'll give them a few days off for Christmas, and then we'll get ready to start conference," Nutt said. "They need a break. They've gone through a lot. We feel good about where we're at, but we've still got a lot of improvement to make."