For Southeast Missouri, you could argue there was little on the line tonight. Regardless of the outcome, the Redhawks will have to play four games in four days to win the OVC tournament title.
Two overtimes, and two court storms later, it was clear the Redhawks weren’t lacking for motivation.
After losing late leads at the end of regulation and the first overtime, the third time proved to be the charm in a 118-115 win over Murray State. While the win doesn’t have a big impact on the Redhawks tournament picture, the win denied the Racers a share of the OVC title.
What was most impressive to Southeast Missouri head coach Dickie Nutt was how they won, forced to play without Jarekious Bradley late due to cramping issues.
Both teams came out on fire in the first half, both shooting better than 50% from the field, and from behind the arc. Despite trailing much of the half, a late run gave SEMO a 52-46 lead at the break.
The defenses showed up in a back-and-forth second half, at least relatively. The Redhawks led by three in the final minute, but a T.J. Sapp three would send the game to overtime. In the first overtime, Southeast Missouri led late again, this time watching Cameron Payne hit a three to tie things up with 44 seconds remaining.
After forcing back-to-back tie-ups, Murray State get the ball back with :14 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Payne began to drive towards the basket, drawing Josh Langford‘s fifth and final foul. Payne, who was 5-6 from the charity stripe to that point in the game, missed both his free-throws, leading to a missed half court heave, bring us to overtime number two.
Once again SEMO took a three-point lead into the game’s final minute. This time, the defense held on a three-point shot from Payne, as the Redhawks escaped at home to win their fourth straight.
With the field set, the red hot Redhawks will land on Murray State’s side of the bracket, meaning a rematch could be in the cards in just six days.
The battle of the freshman
With a game-high 25 points, likely Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year Cameron Payne impressed once again. But with a chance to win the game at the end of the first overtime, Payne missed two free-throws with less than four seconds remaining, leading to the second and deciding overtime.
Despite his lofty point totals, both coaches agree, it was a pair of Southeast Missouri freshman that were the difference makers on senior night.
Antonius Cleveland and Jamaal Calvin combined for 38 points on 13-21 shooting from the field. In the second overtime, they combined for 11 of the Redhawks 13. “Calvin hit two pressure, pressure free-throws,” Nutt said after the game. “Cleveland, in overtime. He absolutely put us on his shoulders offensively.”
“You don’t talk much about Cleveland and Calvin,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm added, “but they were probably the difference makers.”
The Court Storm, part deux
On a week that court storms had been in the news for all the wrong reason, a pair of court storms today in Cape are likely to add some fuel to that fire on the conference level. Down three with :11 seconds to go, Payne was blocked on a three from the wing. It resulted in a runout for the Redhawks, which ended with an emphatic dunk by Nino Johnson in the final second.
It also led to a court storm from the SEMO fans, with time still on the clock. Johnson would be called for a technical for hanging on the rim, but no technical was called for the court storm itself.
Part of what likely led to the confusion: the clock on the central scoreboard, which doesn’t show tenth, showed 0:00. Only the clocks over each basket had the correct time.
While the fans were cleared quickly, they would storm the court again after the game was over, ignoring the request from the public address announcer to wait for both teams to leave the floor.
While neither the first storm, nor the lack of a technical, likely had any impact on the outcome of the game, it’s another arrow in the quiver of those who want to see the court storm ended in it’s entirety.
Streaking into Nashville
The Redhawks admit winning four games in four days will be a tall order, but having won four straight to make the tournament is raising the confidence level of a team many don’t want to face.
“We’ve just got to stay focused,” Southeast Missouri senior Tyler Stone said after the game. “We have to go in with a defensive mindset. I know there’s a lot of hype around us winning four straight, but we’ve still got four more to win.”
“That’s always a tough thing,” Nutt added. “But this team is very good. I thought tonight was critical, for us as a staff, and for me, because our team realized we have depth. And you’ve got to have depth to win four games in a row. But let’s just stick with the same philosophy, the same theme that we had two weeks ago, four games ago: it was one possession, one half, one game. Don’t worry about anything else. There’s no tomorrow. There’s no yesterday. Forget that. Everything is in front of you, one at a time.”
Their one team to focus on: Eastern Illinois, who they split the season series with.
A title denied
With Belmont’s win earlier in the night over Jacksonville State, the Racers weren’t going to get the number one seed in the OVC Tournament, and they weren’t going to get the NIT birth that comes with it.
But with a win, Murray State would have been Ohio Valley Conference co-champions, and that would have meant another banner to hang for a team that touts their championship tradition.
“It’s so hard to win a regular season championship,” Prohm said. “The conference tournament is a weekend of glory, but to go 16 games, and put yourselves a position to win a championship, I’m proud of my guys for that.”
“The bottom line comes down to, [Belmont] won at SEMO and Edwardsville. We got beat,” he added.