Southeast MIssouri State men's basketball team continues struggles at EIU

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Southeast Missouri’s Tyler Stone shoots over Eastern Illinois’ Austin Akers (21) and Josh Piper during Saturday’s game in Charleston, Ill. Eastern Illinois won 78-72 in overtime. (Kevin Kilhoffer ~ Journal Gazette/Times Courier)

southeast men continue their slump with a 78-72 overtime loss to rebuilding EIU

CHARLESTON, Ill. -- The Southeast Missouri State's men's basketball team's recent struggles hit a new low water mark Saturday night.

Undermanned Eastern Illinois, in a rebuilding mode under first-year coach Jay Spoonhour, kept Southeast winless in Ohio Valley Conference road games with a stunning 78-72 overtime victory.

"I'm proud of the guys. They really battled against a very talented team," Spoonhour said.

Southeast, losing for the sixth time in its last seven games, fell to 11-12 overall and 3-6 in OVC play. The Redhawks are 0-4 in conference road contests after being swept on their two-game road trip.

Nino Johnson pulls up for a shot against Eastern Illinois at Lantz Arena in Charleston, Ill., on Saturday. (Kevin Kilhoffer ~ Journal Gazette/ Times-Courier)

"Like coach said, our backs are up against the wall," senior guard Corey Wilford said. "Coach told us they'd won two in a row. We knew they'd come in here confident."

Eastern Illinois (6-16, 3-6) now has won three straight after a 12-game losing streak. The Panthers had dropped the past four meetings against Southeast.

"We had our chances. Give them credit -- they played well," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said. "Our backs are against the wall. We're at a crossroads. We've got to find a way to bounce back."

Despite having two of the top rebounders in the OVC in junior forward Tyler Stone and sophomore forward Nino Johnson, rebounding has plagued Southeast recently.

That area burned the Redhawks on Saturday as EIU hammered Southeast on the boards 50-34. The figure was 18-9 on the offensive glass.

"It's the same thing every game: no defense, no blocking out," senior guard Marland Smith said. "It's the story the last five, six games. Even when we were winning, it was the same story.

"At the end we should have won that game in regulation. We didn't come up with the key rebounds at the end."

One rebound in particular stood out.

Southeast, which trailed much of the game and virtually the entire first half -- EIU led by 13 points late in the opening period -- held a 61-59 lead after a three-point play by Stone with 1 minute, 41 seconds left in regulation.

After EIU missed a shot, Southeast ran the shot clock down before senior guard Nick Niemczyk's missed on a 3-point attempt with 35 seconds remaining.

EIU freshman guard Alex Austin missed a contested layup with nine seconds left, but Southeast failed to corral the rebound.

The ball was instead grabbed by EIU forward Sherman Blanford. It was one of the 6-foot-6 junior's nine offensive rebounds, which matched the entire Southeast squad.

Blanford, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds, was fouled on the play. He made two free throws with 6.1 seconds left for a 61-61 tie.

"It came down to rebounding again, like the last three, four games," Nutt said. "If we rebound that ball, it's over."

Southeast still had a good shot to win in regulation, but Smith's 3-pointer from the right corner was off the mark to send the teams to a five-minute extra period.

Both sides held overtime leads, including 67-66 for Southeast on a Smith 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining.

The Redhawks failed to build a bigger advantage because they made just 1 of 5 free throws in overtime to that point, leaving the door open for EIU.

"You have to hit your free throws," said Nutt, whose squad was 5 of 11 from the line for the game compared to 23 of 27 for EIU.

Blanford scored inside with 1:05 to play as EIU surged in front 68-67.

Southeast missed a 3-pointer, and Blanford followed with two free throws with 57 seconds left to put the Panthers ahead 70-67.

Southeast missed its next shot and then was forced to foul. EIU made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 28 seconds.

"We didn't get the key rebounds, didn't block out when we needed to," Wilford said. "Just giving up too many offensive rebounds."

EIU started strong, hitting 6 of 13 first-half 3-pointers and building a 33-20 lead with under two minutes left in the period. Southeast scored the final seven points to pull within 33-27 at the intermission.

Southeast finally gained its first lead since early in the game midway through the second half and held its biggest advantage of 50-44 with under nine minutes left. But the Redhawks couldn't shake the Panthers.

"We came out a little slow and sluggish in the first half. The second half we came out with more intensity," Wilford said.

Wilford led Southeast with 20 points, one off the career high he tied during Thursday's loss at SIU Edwardsville. He made 3 of 6 3-pointers.

Smith scored 14 points, including 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. He moved into second place in career 3-point baskets at Southeast with 216, and he's only three behind all-time leader Derek Winans.

"You set personal goals when you get here. They can't take those away from me, but I'd rather win," said Smith, seventh on the program's career scoring list.

Stone had a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds, while junior guard A.J. Jones added 13 points.

Southeast outshot EIU from the field (42.4 percent to 36.5 percent) and made 11 3-pointers compared to nine for the Panthers, but rebounding and free-throw shooting proved decisive as the Redhawks' slump continued.

"All the perimeter guys I thought played well. Tyler did a decent job," Nutt said. "It's no one person. We're not collectively playing as well as we can."

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