Southeast men fall to EKU

Sunday, February 3, 2013
Southeast Missouri State’s A.J. Jones drives against Eastern Kentucky’s Tarius Johnson during the first half Saturday at the Show Me Center. (Fred Lynch)

The woes continued for the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team Saturday night.

But this time, unlike following some recent losses, coach Dickey Nutt had no complaints with the Redhawks' effort and passion.

Southeast simply couldn't keep up with hot-shooting Eastern Kentucky, especially in the second half, as the visiting Colonels posted an 81-72 victory.

"I was very proud of our guys. I told them I was so much more proud of you than I've been in a long time," Nutt said. "We played with a lot of heart and passion. We played together and were unselfish."

An announced Show Me Center crowd of 2,922 -- Southeast's second-largest home crowd of the season -- saw the Redhawks fall to 11-13 overall and 3-7 in Ohio Valley Conference play as they lost for the seventh time in their last eight games.

Southeast is in a three-way tie for third place in the six-team OVC West Division and in a three-way tie for seventh in the overall conference standings. The top eight finishers qualify for the OVC tournament.

"It just hurts. Preparing the whole week, coming out and taking a loss," junior forward Tyler Stone said. "It's tough losing on your home floor like that. We just have to stay positive, keep encouraging each other."

EKU, among the OVC's biggest surprises this year, improved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in league play. The Colonels are tied for second in the OVC East Division and tied for third overall in the 12-team conference.

"I'll give Eastern Kentucky a lot of credit. They're a good team," Nutt said.

EKU coach Jeff Neubauer credited his Colonels with an impressive bounce-back performance after they began their two-game road swing Thursday with a surprising 72-65 loss at Tennessee-Martin.

"The thing this team has done, we've been on the road three times for two-game trips. All three times we've lost the first game and won the second," Neubauer said. "I thought we showed a lot tonight."

The Colonels withstood a career-high 27 points from Southeast senior guard Corey Wilford, who scored 17 first half points as the Redhawks led 40-38 at the break.

"I really 'aint worried about it," Wilford said, dismissing his performance because it didn't come in a win. "I've got my career high for losses."

Wilford hit 9 of 17 field-goal attempts and all seven of his free throws.

"Corey Wilford was really good tonight," Nutt said.

Stone was Southeast's only other double-figure scorer with 16 points. He hit 7 of 11 shots and added three blocks.

"I thought Tyler Stone played very well," Nutt said.

Sophomore forward Nino Johnson, who did not start after violating unspecified team rules, made his only field-goal attempt and scored just three points. He led Southeast with six rebounds and five assists while blocking three shots.

"He's struggling a little bit. He's just young. ... I thought he played well tonight," Nutt said.

Both teams were hot in the first half, Southeast shooting 60 percent compared to 51.9 percent for EKU.

But the Redhawks couldn't keep pace in the final period despite scoring the first four points to build their biggest lead at 44-38.

EKU went ahead for good at 48-47 on a layup by sophomore forward Eric Stutz with 15 minutes, 53 seconds remaining.

Southeast stayed close the rest of the way but never could catch the Colonels, who opened up their largest lead of 71-61 with under five minutes remaining.

The Redhawks got within 77-72 on two Wilford free throws with 46 seconds left but EKU made four straight foul shots to ice the victory.

"I thought we played well," Nutt said. "It's just a stop here, a stop there, a free throw here."

The Colonels shot 53.8 percent in the second half to finish at 52.8 percent. They were 9 of 19 from 3-point range in the game (47.4 percent).

"We've got to pick our defense up. We have to play with more energy," Stone said. "We have to get stops. Tonight we didn't do a good job of that."

Southeast shot just 35.7 percent in the second half and finished at 47.2 percent. The Redhawks were 4 of 16 from beyond the arc (25 percent).

Southeast's defense had few answers for EKU's balanced attack spearheaded by a four-guard lineup, including some of the league's quicker guards.

Junior guard Glenn Cosey led five Colonels in double figures with 21 points. He hit 4 of 7 3-pointers.

Senior point guard Mike DiNunno scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half. He hit several jumpers down the stretch to stem Southeast runs.

"He's a prime-time player. He took over late in the game," Nutt said. "We had no answer for him."

Stutz might have been EKU's MVP. The Colonels' only true inside threat was averaging 6.4 points an four rebounds. He had blocked 10 shots all season.

Stutz came up big with his first career double-double. He had 12 points, 11 rebounds -- and seven blocks.

Stutz helped the Colonels, the OVC's worst rebounding team at minus 6.8 per game -- they were hammered on the boards 51-26 Thursday at Tennessee-Martin -- battle Southeast virtually even on the boards. The Redhawks held a slim 31-29 rebounding edge.

"Stutz was great. He was playing against grown men," said Neubauer.

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