Lucas Nutt knocked down a free throw with 3.3 seconds left to help Southeast Missouri (5-7) escape with a 77-76 win over Sacramento State (5-6) Thursday night in a flair for the dramatic at The Nest.
Southeast, which ended a nine-game road losing streak, picked up its first win away from home this year.
Sac State battled back from a 13-point deficit and tied the game at 76-76 on John Dickson’s hook shot with 38 seconds left.
On Southeast’s next possession, Nutt was fouled when he drew contact in the lane and went to the free throw line with 3.3 seconds on the clock. Nutt calmly hit the first free throw, but intentionally missed his second attempt.
Dickson pulled down the rebound and heaved a desperation halfcourt shot that fell well short of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“To travel all the way across three different time zones and win this game was something special,” said Southeast head coach Dickey Nutt. “I though we played really well and I’m proud of how our guys never gave up.”
Marland Smith gave Southeast its biggest lead of the night when his game-high seventh three-pointer made it 56-43 with 15:11 remaining.
The Redhawks, however, would go scoreless for 3:12, as Sac State mounted its comeback in the final three-plus minutes of the game.
The Hornets capitalized on Southeast’s cold spell to string together a 7-0 run in that span, getting five of their seven points at the free throw line. Dylan Garrity made all five of those free throws leading up to Dickson’s game-tying shot.
Southeast put on a show in the first half which held up big in the end.
The Redhawks exploded for 11 three-pointers, including five in the opening 5:32 of the game.
Eleven of Southeast’s 15 field goals came from behind the arc in a first half which saw Smith and Nick Niemczyk combine for 10 treys and 32 of their team’s 44 points.
Niemczyk buried two trifectas and Smith nailed three in a row for Southeast’s first five bombs even though the Redhawks trailed, 19-15, with 14:31 remaining.
After Michael Porter’s free throw tied the game at 24-24 with 11:08 left, Smith added two more threes to ignite an 8-0 run and grab Southeast a 32-24 lead.
Sac State pulled to within four on Dickson’s jumper, but Southeast scored the last seven points of the half to secure a 44-33 advantage, its third halftime lead of the season.
“Our double-digit lead was the difference because we got nervous in the last five minutes of the game,” said Nutt.
Southeast, which shot a scorching 73.3 percent (11-of-15) from three-point range in the first half, finished with a season-high 12 treys. The Redhawks made only one three-pointer (1-of-10) in the second half after their blazing start.
Smith, who scored 18 points in the first nine minutes of the game, led the Redhawks with 21. All of Smith’s field goals (7-of-10) from downtown. Smith made each of his first six threes of the game before missing for the first time with 9:41 left in the first half. His seven three-pointers were a career-high.
Three others, including Tyler Stone, Niemczyk and Porter, also scored double figures.
Stone, who poured in 12 points in the second half, followed with 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Niemczyk added 14 points on 5-of-14 field goals and 4-of-8 three-pointers.
Porter chipped in a season-high 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench, notching double-digits in the scoring column for the first time in his career.
Dickson led the Hornets with 24 points off the bench, 22 of which came in the second half. Sac State shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field and heated up to make 13-of-23 shots (56.5 percent) in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Southeast put a halt to a three-game losing streak on a night where Nutt coached his 450th career game. He improved to 211-239 all-time in 16 years as an NCAA Division I head coach. That record includes a 22-52 mark at Southeast.
The Redhawks will return to action after the Christmas holiday to host Morehead State in its league-opener on Dec. 28. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m., CT, at the Show Me Center.