(Southeast Missouri State’s Tyler Stone, center, watches the ball as teammate Nick Niemczyk takes a free throw during the first half Thursday against Morehead State at the Show Me Center.) [Order this photo]
They were way too tough for Southeast Missouri State on Thursday as the Redhawks' struggles continued.
The Eagles dominated Southeast physically all night and eventually pulled away from a halftime tie to romp 75-59.
"We just got out-toughed," said sophomore forward Nino Johnson, echoing the theme of the evening.
An announced Show Me Center crowd of 1,856 saw Southeast fell to 10-10 overall and 2-4 in the OVC. The Redhawks are on a season-high four-game losing streak -- all in OVC play. They have dropped two straight at home.
"Just got out-toughed tonight," junior point guard Lucas Nutt said. "Losing is just contagious. We got to get tough to win a game."
Morehead, which improved to 9-10 overall and 3-2 in the OVC, exemplified its physical prowess on the boards.
The Eagles entered play as the OVC's top rebounding team at plus 4.4 per game.
Southeast wishes it had only gotten outrebounded by that margin.
The Redhawks were blasted 45-23 on the boards, including 18-4 on the offensive glass. Three of Southeast's four offensive rebounds were by guards.
"They just absolutely hammered us on the glass. That was the key. We've got to get some guys that can crash the boards," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "I credit Morehead for playing pretty well. They hadn't played that well. We made them look good tonight.
"We got to get tougher. I mean tougher by heart, tougher my mind. It's disappointing. ... we don't have much confidence right now."
The Eagles rolled despite playing without two of their three top scorers, including their leading scorer. Both were out for undisclosed reasons.
"We played with a sense of urgency in the rebounding department," Morehead coach Sean Woods said. "Chad [Posthumus] was aggressive on the glass."
Posthumus, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound junior center, doubled up Southeast on the offensive glass by himself as eight of his game-high 13 rebounds came on the offensive end.
"I was very surprised," Johnson said about Morehead's rebounding dominance. "Just got to box out. It's a mind game." Southeast led for only a few minutes all night, but the game was extremely tight most of the way despite the lopsided final score.
Neither side led by more than five points over the first 30 minutes, which featured 13 ties, including 34-34 at halftime.
The Redhawks took their only lead of the second half at 44-42 when freshman guard Jared White made two free throws with 12 minutes, 6 seconds left.
Morehead answered with nine straight points in about a three-minute span to go ahead for good at 51-44. The final six points in the spurt came after Southeast committed three of its 11 turnovers on the night.
"I felt there was a two-minute stretch where they got tougher than us," Lucas Nutt said, pointing to the decisive spurt. "We turned the ball over. ... The momentum changed and the game was over."
Southeast cut the deficit to 53-50 with about seven minutes left, but then Morehead took control, outscoring the Redhawks 22-9 the rest of the way.
The Eagles led by at least seven points for the final 5:45 and by at least 10 points for the final 3:12. Their biggest advantage was 19 points.
"I thought we really executed down the stretch tonight," Woods said.
Johnson led Southeast with 13 points. He made all five of his field-goal attempts and blocked three shots.
Nutt scored 12 points -- 10 in the first half. All five of his field goals came on drives to the basket that he finished in traffic. He also had five assists and three steals.
"That was our plan," Dickey Nutt said. "We told him all week he has to be more aggressive."
Junior forward Tyler Stone added 11 points for the Redhawks.
Junior forward Drew Kelly paced the Eagles with 15 points. It was his sixth straight double-figure scoring performance.
"Drew is just being Drew," Woods said. "He brings us a lot of toughness and intelligence to the court. He's really starting to come around for us, and we need his production for us to win."
Southeast shot a respectable 45.8 percent from the field but hit only 3 of 16 3-pointers (18.8 percent).
Morehead shot 40.7 percent and was 6 of 18 from beyond the arc (33.3 percent).
The Eagles had a big advantage from the free-throw line, making 25 of 34 (73.5 percent) compared to 12 of 21 for the Redhawks (57.1 percent).
Morehead was 21 of 27 from the line in the second half, while Southeast was 5 of 13.
"You hold a team to 40 percent and 33 percent from the 3-point line, you got chances to win. But at the end of the day you've got to make shots," Dickey Nutt said. "When the game was on the line we didn't show that toughness. Nothing we did tonight went well."
Southeast wraps up a two-game OVC homestand at 7 p.m. Saturday against Tennessee Tech (7-10, 1-4).
"We need to regroup in a hurry," Dickey Nutt said.