This road swing presented a chance for Southeast Missouri to show they were an OVC contender.
They did not do that.
Kellen Thorton scores a game-high 28 points, pulls down a game-high 16 rebounds as Tennessee State holds off Southeast Missouri 81-69. The 28 points a career-high for Thorton; 16 rebounds ties his career high.
Tennessee State jumped out to an early lead, and never looked back in the first half. The Tigers shoot 64% from the field in the opening 20 minutes, hold the Redhawks under 39%, taking a 14 point lead into the locker room.
That lead would expand to 17 with 16:45 remaining, but Southeast Missouri would respond with an 11-4 run, pulling back within 10 with just under 14 minutes to play. Tennessee State would end the run, and would still lead by double digits at the under 12 media timeout. Coming out of that timeout, another 7-2 run by SEMO, and the Tigers lead is cut to six. A three pointer by Corey Wilford cuts the lead to just four with 6:30 to play.
After a cold period for both teams, Nick Niemczyk would hit a three with 3:46 left to put the Redhawks within three, the closest the Redhawks had been in over 32 minutes. But that’s when the Redhawks would run out of steam. Jordan Cyphers would answer with a three of his own, and after trading field goals, Southeast Missouri would miss their final seven shots, including five on a single possession. Late free throws would seal the game for the Tigers.
On top of Thorton’s 28, Patrick Miller added 20 points and five assists in the win for Tennessee State. The Tigers shot 49% from the field for the night, and 8-19 (42.1%) from three point range. The Tigers also hit 19-22 from the free throw line, including six straight in the final 33 seconds to seal the win. M.J. Rhett was ejected from the game.
Four Redhawks scored in double figures, led by 15 points from Corey Wilford, and 14 points off 7-9 shooting from Nino Johnson. As we’ve come to see with games involving the Redhawks, the Redhawks ball control was excellent, turning the ball over just eight times. They also forced just eight turnovers.
Is this Tennessee State team even better than last year’s? It appears so. Not only are the Tigers 5-0 in the conference, they’ve done so fairly easily, leading almost the entirety of the game tonight. The Tigers let Southeast Missouri back into the game, which is a minor point of concern, but this hasn’t been a trend of this team this season.
It’s another tough loss for Southeast Missouri, that is probably very ready to return home. SEMO looked vulnerable in their early conference games, and these past two games seemed to prove they were. What’s really surprised me is the play of their frontcourt, which still continues to struggle, edged on the rebounds against tonight. A few weeks ago, I would have put the Redhawks forwards a the top of the list of frontcourts in the league. Now? They’re somewhere in the middle. The guard play, which I’ve criticized as inconsistent, has been much better as of late, thanks in part to the emergence of A.J. Jones, although he scored just seven points on 2-6 shooting tonight.
Tennessee State has an important stretch this week. They’ll host Jacksonville State (12-5, 4-2) before traveling to Belmont. (13-4, 4-0) Southeast Missouri hosts Morehead State (8-10, 2-2) and Tennessee Tech. (7-10, 1-4)