Redhawks bounce back with victory

Sunday, January 20, 2013
Southeast Missouri State's Nino Johnson dunks against Tennessee Tech during the second half of Saturday's game at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team was about as low as it could get following Thursday's disheartening 16-point home defeat to Morehead State.

That's one of the reasons the Redhawks were so happy with Saturday's 74-62 win over Tennessee Tech that snapped their season-long four-game losing streak.

"I don't think anything beats this feeling, especially the slump we've had," junior forward Tyler Stone said after the Redhawks led virtually all the way.

An announced Show Me Center crowd of 2,294 saw the Redhawks improve to 11-10 overall and 3-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play.

Tech (7-11, 1-5), which lost for the seventh time in eight games, had won eight of the past nine meetings with Southeast, including three straight in Cape Girardeau.

"I was really proud of the way we bounced back after one of our worst performances of the season two nights ago," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "I thought tonight was a do or die game."

A smiling Stone said Nutt challenged the Redhawks' manhood after Morehead State hammered them on the boards 45-23, including 18-4 on the offensive glass.

"Whenever your coach comes at you and says you've been out-toughed and played like a little girl, it doesn't feel too good," Stone said. "I'm so proud of my team. We played with that intensity we know we can play with. In adversity we have to come together. We wanted to throw the first punch."

Stone threw plenty of punches as he scored 20 points and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds, helping Southeast win the battle of the boards 47-33.

Stone, who had his fifth double-double of the season, hit all five of his field-goal attempts and made 10 of 12 free throws.

"The MVP had to be Tyler Stone," Nutt said. "He did everything we wanted him to do."

Nutt said junior forward Michael Porter also deserved a game ball even though he scored only six points with three rebounds.

Porter, one of Southeast's inspirational leaders who had missed the first 20 games of the season with a broken foot while also being plagued by hip problems, played 16 minutes off the bench.

"You can't help but talk about Michael Porter. What an inspiration he is to our team. He was a difference in our team tonight," Nutt said. "He helped get our step back tonight. Our team in the locker room gave him a standing ovation."

Said Stone: "He [Porter] does all the dirty things. ... takes charges, gets offensive rebounds. I can honestly say he helped us win this game tonight. His presence out there was known."

Porter, unfortunately, was taken back to the locker room midway through the second half and did not return to the bench. Nutt feared that Porter might have re-fractured the foot and said Porter was shook up after the game.

"I said let's think positive. Let's not think the worst," Nutt said.

Sophomore forward Nino Johnson had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Senior guard Corey Wilford chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.

"We went out there with intensity and toughness," Wilford said. "Can't say we were soft tonight. Not tonight."

Senior guard Nick Niemczyk and junior point guard Lucas Nutt both had solid all-around games.

Niemczyk scored eight points and dished out four assists. He hit two of five 3-pointers.

Nutt also had eight points and four assists after recently moving into sixth place in career assists at Southeast. He has 334 assists.

Senior guard Marland Smith also drew praise from Dickey Nutt for his defensive work on Tech standout senior guard Jud Dillard.

Smith, who had come off the bench the previous six games after being a starter earlier in the season, started Saturday.

The 6-foot-2 Smith had only two points but was primarily responsible for limiting the 6-5 Dillard to two first-half points on 1 of 9 shooting. Smith even blocked two shots and grabbed five rebounds.

"We put him back in the lineup to change things around a little bit," Nutt said of Smith. "I thought he played well."

Dillard wound up with 16 points, nearly four below his average, but shot just 7 of 21.

"I thought we did a good job on Dillard in the first half," Nutt said.

Tech led only twice all night, at 6-5 and 8-7.

Southeast went ahead for good on a basket by Stone that made it 9-8 3 minutes, 51 seconds into the game.

The Redhawks led by 16 points three times in the first half before settling for a 36-23 advantage at the break.

Tech cut the deficit to six points twice, the last time with just over nine minutes left, but Southeast regained control and led by double figures most of the rest of the way.

"I thought our team played well tonight," Nutt said. "For the guys to bounce back like they did was really good."

Southeast shot 46.9 percent and held Tech to 32.9 percent. The Redhawks made just 4 of 16 3-pointers (25 percent) while the Eagles were 8 of 24 from beyond the arc (33.3 percent).

"We picked it up a lot this game [defensively]," Niemczyk said.

The Redhawks had a big advantage from the free-throw line, making 24 of 31 (77.4 percent) compared to 8 of 16 for Tech (50 percent).

Southeast now faces a two-game OVC road swing, at SIU Edwardsville Thursday and Eastern Illinois Saturday.

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