No. 16 Murray State beats SE Missouri 75-66

The setting was perfect. Southeast Missouri State sold out the

Show Me Center for the first time in a dozen years for the home

finale against No. 16 Murray State.

The outcome was another matter.

After Murray State clinched its third straight Ohio Valley

Conference title behind 25 points from Donte Poole in a 75-66

victory on Wednesday night, Redhawks players could only hope they’d

get another chance at the Racers in the conference tournament.

Southeast Missouri State is currently in third place.

”We’re going to be playing them in the tournament, I feel

like,” Redhawks forward Leon Powell said. ”Probably the

championship game.”

Murray State neutralized a packed house, winning despite a poor

game from leading scorer Isaiah Canaan.

Ivan Aska had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Racers (25-1,

13-1), who have won two straight since getting upset at home by

Tennessee State last week to end a 23-0 start. They have dominated

the series with Southeast Missouri, 50-17.

”We just never could get over the hump,” Redhawks coach Dickey

Nutt said. ”They’ve got every piece of the puzzle and I think

they’re worthy of their ranking, no doubt.

But he added, ”We feel like we’re still in the middle of this

thing.”

Southeast Missouri State (14-12, 9-5) had won 10 of 14 entering

the Murray State game, but shot a season-worst 37.3 percent. The

Redhawks hit all six 3-pointers in the second half but couldn’t

make up a 10-point deficit.

”The outcome wasn’t like we wanted, but we thank them,” guard

Corey Wilford said of the fan support. ”Don’t let it just be a

one-time thing.”

Canaan, second in the conference with a 19.6 average, was held

scoreless for the first 17 minutes and finished with nine points on

2-for-11 shooting. Canaan had 32 points in the first meeting, an

81-73 victory at home Feb. 2.

”We just tried to key on Canaan and ended up letting the

next-best player go off,” Wilford said. ”We’re going to have to

stop both of them the next time.”

Powell had 13 points and eight rebounds and Wilford added 12

points with three 3-pointers in the second half. Tyler Stone, the

Redhawks’ leading scorer with a 15.0 average, was scoreless in 15

minutes.

Nutt said Murray State did a good job moving Stone away from the

basket.

”They don’t give you anything,” Nutt said. ”We couldn’t

really get Tyler going and that hurt us a little bit.”

The home finale was also the school’s first home game against a

Top 25 team and attracted a crowd of 7,125, the first sellout at

the Show Me Center in 12 years The Redhawks beat Murray State at

home last season but have never beaten the Racers in consecutive

years at home.

”Our students were here in droves and I appreciate that much

much,” Nutt said.

Murray State trailed by 11 points early in the second half of

the earlier meeting. The Racers led by 10 at halftime of the

rematch despite Canaan’s shaky start and Southeast Missouri got no

closer than five points the rest of the way.

Poole hit all four 3-pointers in the first half, two during a

stretch of eight consecutive points that put Murray State up 32-20

with 54 seconds to go. That offset a poor start by Canaan, who

missed his first six shots against frequent double coverage before

hitting a 3-pointer with just under 3 minutes left.

Southeast Missouri State’s halftime total was just one more than

its season-worst and the Redhawks fell short despite shooting 53

percent the rest of the way.

”We played hard, we tried to play the right way,” Nutt said.

”We just couldn’t get a bucket to fall here and there.”