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Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team beats EIU with torrid outside shooting
Marland Smith leads Southeast's 3-point barrage in 77-64 win over Eastern Illinois
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team finished its revenge week in impressive fashion -- led by a dazzling shooting performance from senior guard Marland Smith.
Smith tied a school record with nine 3-pointers and scored 29 points as Southeast avenged a recent road loss for the second straight game, rolling past Eastern Illinois 77-64 on Saturday.
An announced Show Me Center crowd of 2,509 saw the Redhawks climb back to the .500 mark overall at 13-13 and improve their Ohio Valley Conference record to 5-7.
The Redhawks moved into second place in the six-team OVC West Division and to sixth overall in the 12-team conference among squads eligible for the eight-team league tournament.
EIU (7-18, 4-8), which entered the day tied for seventh with Southeast, fell into an eighth-place OVC tie.
"This is what we envisioned the entire year. This is the team we're capable of being night in and night out," Southeast coach Dickey Nutt said after the Redhawks won their second straight following a stretch that saw them lose seven of eight. "We feel like we beat a good team tonight."
Southeast beat visiting SIU Edwardsville on Thursday, avenging a loss at SIUE on Jan. 24.
The loss to SIUE was followed by an overtime setback at EIU two days later.
"We shouldn't have lost to neither one of those teams," junior guard A.J. Jones said. "I think we're finally clicking as a unit."
Saturday's contest was never in doubt after Southeast scored the first seven points -- including an alley-oop dunk by junior forward Tyler Stone off a pass from junior point guard Lucas Nutt just five seconds following the opening tip.
It was 18-2 after only five minutes of play, and the lead never dipped under 12 points.
"We just wanted to jump on them. We did that from the start," Smith said.
The Redhawks led 31-19 when they scored 15 straight points on a three-point barrage late in the opening half. Senior guard Corey Wilford hit three in a row and Smith followed with two consecutive -- all in a span of a little more than three minutes.
Southeast's 46-19 advantage was its biggest of the night. The Redhawks led 48-23 at the break.
"The first half was really special," Nutt said about a period that saw Southeast shoot 62.1 percent, make 9 of 14 3-pointers and hold EIU to 27.6-percent shooting. "I thought the game was under control for the most part. I didn't like our intensity in the second half."
EIU, to its credit, didn't let Southeast run away to romp. The Panthers cut the deficit to 12 points twice in the final period but got no closer.
"We came out kind of sluggish in the second half. We knew they'd make a run," Smith said.
There was nothing sluggish about Smith's performance, two days after he set Southeast's career record for 3-point field goals with his 220th basket from beyond the arc against SIUE.
Smith buried his first two 3-point attempts in the opening four minutes Saturday and never cooled off much.
Smith finished 9 of 15 from long range, matching the school single-game record previously held by two players. Mark Johnson was the most recent to hit nine 3-pointers, during the 1994-95 season.
"Once I got those first couple to go down, I just kept shooting," said a grinning Smith, whose previous career high was seven 3-pointers, most recently against EIU last season. "They [his teammates] kept finding me and they [the shots] kept going down."
Smith took a final crack at breaking the record when he launched a 3-pointer with under 30 seconds left but it was well off the mark.
"Michael Porter told me," Smith said about his injured teammate who notified Smith that he had tied the record. "Since I was that close I figured I'd shoot it."
Smith's 29 points were one off his career high that he recorded twice. His previous season high was 19 points.
Smith added three rebounds and three assists. He did not commit a turnover in a game-high 38 minutes.
"Marland was fantastic. What a night he had tonight," Dickey Nutt said.
Wilford hit 4 of 7 3-pointers and scored 14 points -- 12 in the first half. He also had five rebounds and three assists.
Stone had 13 points and five rebounds, while Jones was a fourth double-figure scorer with 11 points -- all in the first half.
Jones led Southeast with 10 rebounds and tied sophomore forward Nino Johnson with three blocks. Jones entered the game with just two blocks all season.
It was the second collegiate double-double and first since the second game of the season for Jones, a junior college transfer.
"I thought A.J. played well. I thought he was a difference maker tonight," Nutt said.
Lucas Nutt tied his season high with 10 assists.
Southeast finished the game 15 of 26 from beyond the arc (57.7 percent), falling one 3-pointer shy of matching the school single-game record last accomplished during the 1997-98 season.
The Redhawks shot 51.9 percent from the field overall. EIU's hot second half of 54.8 percent allowed the Panthers to finish at 41.7 percent.
"We wanted to come out with real hard-nosed defense," Wilford said.
Southeast outrebounded EIU 37-31 after the Panthers crushed the Redhawks on the boards 50-34 in the first meeting.
"That [rebounding] was definitely a big focus," Jones said.
The biggest focus was winning both games this week after the Redhawks experienced their worst slump of the season.
"I felt like these were must-win games. We rose to the occasion," Dickey Nutt said.
Southeast has four OVC contests left, all on the road beginning Saturday at Tennessee-Martin.