Second half gets away from Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team as defense can't slow Belmont

Saturday, January 7, 2017
Southeast Missouri State's Antonius Cleveland avoids defenders during the game played against Belmont University in Nashville on Saturday night.
Mary Alice Truitt ~ Special for the Southeast Missourian

Not many teams have traveled to the Curb Event Center and gotten the best of the Belmont men's basketball team, which is 82-6 at home since 2010. On Saturday night, Southeast Missouri State became the next in a long line of squads unable to make a dent in that record.

Despite shooting 50 percent from the field on the night and going toe to toe with one of the Ohio Valley Conference's favorites in the first half, the Redhawks couldn't find a way to slow Belmont on their way to an 87-75 road loss in Nashville, Tennessee.

The game was tied at 36-all at halftime.

Turnovers proved to be a defining factor, as Southeast outscored Belmont 14-3 on points off turnovers in the first half, allowing the Redhawks to hang with a strong-shooting Bruins side through 20 minutes.

Southeast Missouri State's Denzel Mahoney takes a shot during Saturday's game against Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee.
Special to the Southeast Missourian

But in the second half the home side flipped those numbers, outscoring Southeast 18-4 off turnovers and knocking down 65.4 percent of its shots during the final 20 minutes.

"I thought we did some things that are necessary to compete and win the ball game in the first half, and I thought we went away from some of those things in the second half, especially in the defensive end," Southeast coach Rick Ray said.

"We did a great job of taking care of the ball in the first half ... but more importantly, I think they scored 18 points off turnovers in the second half. They're such a lethal team in transition. They're hard to guard in the half-court, but when you're trying to chase them down, you really have no chance to defend that possession."

OVC Preseason Player of the Year Evan Bradds scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Dylan Windler added another 23 points and the Bruins shot 58.8 percent (30 of 51) from the floor.

Taylor Barnette added 18 points and a team-high six rebounds for the Bruins, while Amanze Egekeze scored 15 points.

"They put you in a bind because Bradds demands a double team, so you've got to help in the post," Ray said. "... When they're trying to feed the post and they put it above their head, they're going to skip the ball to the other side. I thought we did a poor job of taking away that skip pass."

Ray said part of that domino effect was also missing the shooter coming out to the 3-point line, and Belmont took advantage. Although the Bruins are traditionally an elite long-distance shooting team -- since moving to the Division I ranks, the only school to hit more 3s than Belmont is Duke -- they have not been elite from outside the arc this season, sitting 10th out of 12 OVC teams shooting 32.2 percent from outside the arc. On Saturday, Belmont was 13 of 28 (46.4 percent) from 3-point range.

Antonius Cleveland had another strong night scoring for Southeast, as he finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Trey Kellum added 13 points, and Denzel Mahoney scored 11.

Even on a night when the Redhawks were 29 of 58 (50 percent) from the field, including shooting 57.1 percent in the second half, they didn't do all the things offensively that Ray thought were necessary to win the game -- being patient and possessing the ball long enough to limit Belmont's opportunities on the other end.

"We had some success on the offensive end, but we could have been even more successful if we had done the things necessary for us to win," Ray said. "I think sometimes guys don't understand that just because you individually have success on the play doesn't mean it was good for the team.

"We talked about to win this game we needed long possessions on both the offensive end and defensive end. ... We want to make them defend and limit their possessions, and I thought too many times we tried to create early in the possession when there simply wasn't anything there."

The turnovers that haunted Southeast were, according to Ray, directly linked to forcing things on offense.

"They're unforced turnovers," Ray said. "It's not anything Belmont's doing as far as pressuring the ball or trapping or jumping passing lanes, it's just us being careless with the basketball. But the No. 1 thing is we're trying to force plays that aren't there when the simple play is to [reverse the ball]."

The early portion of the game swung like a pendulum, as a Kellum layup with 13 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half capped a 7-0 Southeast run and gave the visitors a 14-7 lead; not even two minutes later, a Barnette 3 completed an 8-0 swing that put Belmont back on top, 15-14.

Then it was SEMO's turn, as Belmont missed six of eight shots, and the Redhawks used an 11-0 switch to go up 25-15 with 7:27 left in the first half.

Of course, the Bruins responded as Southeast went through a 1-of-10 shooting stretch, and Bradds completed a three-point play with 3:57 on the clock as suddenly it was the home side with the lead again, 27-25.

The two teams then went into halftime locked at 36.

Belmont was 13 of 25 (52 percent) from the floor through 20 minutes and 6 of 15 (40 percent) from outside the arc.

Southeast was 13 of 30 (43 percent) midway through the game and 4 of 13 (31 percent) from 3.

On a night when Southeast rarely stopped the Bruins, the Redhawks' defense was most sieve-like in the second half. Belmont opened the period going 7 of 8 from the floor, including four straight 3-pointers, capped by back-to-back triples from Egekeze before he got a basket at the rim.

Southeast Missouri State's Daniel Simmons looks for offensive options during the game played against Belmont University in Nashville on Saturday night.
Mary Alice Truitt ~ Special for the Southeast Missourian

Trailing 54-45 with 15:04 on the clock, Southeast picked up some momentum with a 14-2 run that saw Southeast grab a 59-56 lead with 10:52 left when Mahoney hit a 3 -- one of three shots from outside the arc for the freshman in the run.

But Barnette hit a 3 to tie things at 59, and when Bradds got to the rim for consecutive buckets, the advantage was back in Belmont's hands, 65-61.

An Austin Luke 3-pointer with 5:08 left polished off a 14-2 swing for the home team and left Southeast looking up at a 75-63 hole.

The Redhawks were able to slice the lead to eight points with 3:45 remaining but did not draw any closer.

Southeast will try to bounce back against Tennessee Tech on Tuesday at the Show Me Center. The Golden Eagles are off to a 3-0 start in OVC play after defeating Murray State on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

"To me, it's we've got to balance out between getting ready for Tennessee Tech and also giving our guys the proper amount of recovery, both mentally and physically to be prepared to go out and execute and play hard on Tuesday," Ray said.

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