Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team loses OVC game at SIU Edwardsville

Friday, January 25, 2013

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- The Southeast Missouri State's men's basketball team survived some early emotional play by SIU Edwardsville and somewhat silenced an enthusiastic crowd on the Cougars' 'red out' night Thursday.

Then came an SIUE avalanche that buried the visiting Redhawks.

SIUE hit Southeast with a 20-2 run in the second half, wiping out a nine-point deficit and wiping out the Redhawks 80-77 in front of an announced 1,989 fans at the Vadalabene Center.

"On the road, they had a big crowd, a good atmosphere. We knew their run was coming," senior guard Corey Wilford said. "We just didn't put enough stops together and they hit some tough shots."

Southeast, which had won the past four meetings with SIUE -- including two victories by double figures last year -- fell to 11-11 overall and 3-5 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Redhawks are 0-3 in OVC road games.

"We're real disappointed with ourselves right now," senior guard Nick Niemczyk said. "But we have to keep our heads up."

SIUE, eligible for the OVC tournament for the first time this year, improved to 7-10 overall and 3-4 in league play. The Cougars moved ahead of Southeast into second place in the OVC West Division.

"I commend SIU Edwardsville," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "Their play was good tonight. They're physical, they're big and strong."

Southeast and SIUE traded blows during a first half that featured nine lead changes and six ties.

A floater in the lane by Niemczyk with just less than six minutes left in the opening period put the Redhawks up 30-29. They built three eight-point leads before carrying a 43-39 advantage into the break.

The Redhawks shot a sizzling 56.3 percent in the first half, led by Wilford. He scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.

"I was just doing what I do," Wilford said.

Southeast scored the first five points of the second half in the opening minute to go ahead 48-39 for the biggest lead by either side at that point.

Then came the avalanche.

The Redhawks scored only two points in a stretch of more than nine minutes while the Cougars piled up 20 points, turning the 48-39 deficit into a 59-50 lead.

And SIUE wasn't done. The Cougars drilled consecutive 3-pointers -- making them 11 of 16 from the field to start the half -- as they went ahead 65-52 with a little more than seven minutes remaining.

"Our defense kind of let down," Niemczyk said. "We stopped playing hard. I think we got happy when we went up [by nine points]. We thought we were going to run them out of the gym."

Nutt agreed with Niemczyk in that he thought the Redhawks let down.

"When we opened up a lead early in the second half, I thought we got complacent defensively," Nutt said. "That stretch really hurt us. I thought we weren't tough enough."

SIUE coach Lennox Forrester credited the Cougars' defense as much as their offense for their game-changing run.

"We got some stops ... also execution on offense," Forrester said. "I thought we played both ends of the floor."

The Redhawks answered with 10 straight points in less than two minutes, cutting the deficit to 65-62 with more than five minutes remaining.

SIUE went ahead 68-62 and led 75-69 with under one minute left. but the Cougars were far from home free.

Senior guard Marland Smith's 3-pointer with 42 seconds left pulled Southeast within 75-72. SIUE missed two free throws with 40 seconds left, but the Redhawks missed a shot in the lane.

The Cougars hit two free throws with 22 seconds left for a 77-72 lead, but Niemczyk bombed in a 3-pointer with 15.7 seconds remaining to make it 77-75.

SIUE left the door open by hitting just 1 of 2 from the line with 15.5 seconds left, but a 3-pointer by Wilford that would have forged a tie rimmed out with eight seconds to play.

A pair of free throws with 7.2 seconds left made it 80-75 and sealed the outcome. Junior forward Tyler Stone's follow shot with 0.9 seconds left accounted for the final points.

"It's a disappointing thing for us," Nutt said.

SIUE shot 56.5 percent in the second half and 51.9 percent in the game, marking the third time in the past seven contests an opponent has shot better than 51 percent against Southeast. None of the Redhawks' first 15 opponents shot better than 45.6 percent.

"Scoring wasn't our problem. You score 77 points, you're supposed to win," Nutt said.

SIU hit 7 of 11 3-pointers as Southeast allowed a season-high 63.6 percent from long range.

"I think our offense is fine," Niemczyk said. "Just our defense. ... We take a bunch of plays off. We have to stop doing that."

Southeast shot 48.3 percent from the field overall, but just 39.3 percent in the second half.

Wilford tied his career high with 21 points.

Also scoring in double figures for Southeast were Smith with 15 points, junior guard A.J. Jones with 12 points and Stone with 11 points. Stone led Southeast with seven rebounds.

A pair of senior forwards with football-like builds paced SIUE offensively and helped the Cougars outrebound Southeast 37-30.

Mark Yelovich, listed as 6 foot 6 and 225 pounds, scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds -- both game highs. He hit 9 of 15 from the field.

"We had no answer for Yelovich," Nutt said.

Jerome Jones, a 6-5, 220-pounder who leads SIUE in scoring at more than 15 points per game, scored 19 points and added six rebounds. He hit 4 of 7 3-pointers.

Southeast concludes its two-game OVC road trip Saturday with a 6 p.m. tipoff against Eastern Illinois (5-16, 2-6).

The Redhawks beat the Panthers in both meetings last year.

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