Southeast Missouri (8-6, 0-1) rallied from a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead on three occasions in the second half, but couldn’t get over the hump in an 82-75 loss to Murray State (6-7, 1-0) Thursday night in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both teams.
Rivals Southeast and MSU hooked up to start conference play for the first time in a battle of the Co-OVC West Division favorites.
The Redhawks fell behind at the half for the sixth-straight game after getting off to another sluggish start.
“It was a tough basketball game,” said Southeast head coach Dickey Nutt. “Our mentality is not where it needs to be and we didn’t play well. We were playing catch-up all night.”
Southeast turned the ball over on four of their first six possessions and MSU went on a 12-2 run in the first 3:25 of the game. Freshman Cameron Payne buried three 3-pointers in a span of 1:25 to help grab the Racers the early double-digit advantage.
MSU led by as many as 12 points three times before the Redhawks pulled to within four at the intermission.
Nino Johnson threw down a dunk off a Lucas Nutt steal to make it a 31-25 game with 2:07 remaining. Johnson followed his own basket with five more points and made two free throws to chop the Racers lead to 34-30 with under a minute left.
Nutt then drove the length of the court for a layup as the buzzer sounded, sending the Redhawks into the locker room down, 38-34.
MSU, despite shooting under 40 percent (37.9) from the field in the first half, drained six three-pointers, including four by Payne. Payne scored 16 points in his first 18 minutes and the Racers posted a +8 margin (22-14) on the glass with seven offensive boards.
Southeast came alive in the second half.
Jarekious Bradley sent a charge into the Redhawks, scoring 15 of his team-high 22 points in the first 12:42 of the second half. Bradley buried a baseline jumper to give Southeast a 60-59 edge with 7:53 remaining, its first lead of the game. However, he fouled out with 4:02 on the clock.
Josh Langford then knocked down a three to put Southeast ahead, 65-64, with 5:38 left and Nutt made two free throws to give the Redhawks a 67-66 lead at the 4:29 mark.
“Josh is starting to find his groove a little bit,” said Nutt. “He did some good things for us tonight.”
After that, MSU outscored Southeast, 16-8, down the stretch to polish off the win.
Langford nailed another three to cut the lead to two (75-73) with 2:37 left to play before Southeast missed four field goals and two free throws in the final 1:31.
Bradley shot 8-of-14 from the field, 4-of-6 from three-point range and 2-of-2 at the free throw line en route to his eleventh 20-point game this season. He also had three rebounds in 28 minutes.
Langford followed with 17 ponts off the bench, including 13 in the second half. Johnson and Tyler Stone followed with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Johnson played a team-high 33 minutes.
Additionally, Nutt dished out eight assists and now has 500 in his Southeast career.
Payne led all MSU scorers with a game-high 23 points, making all but two of his field goals from behind the arc. He shot 7-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-9 from three.
Jarvis Williams contributed a double-double 16 points and 18 rebounds. Williams had nine offensive rebounds to help give the Racers a +8 advantage (42-34) on the glass.
T.J. Sapp rounded out MSU’s double-digit scorers with 14 points in 27 minutes off the bench.
Southeast closes out its three-game road stretch at Austin Peay Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m., CT, at the Dunn Center.