Short-handed SEMO hoops fall at Belmont 77-66
Tony Capobianco ~ email@example.com
The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks fell to the Ohio Valley Conference leading Belmont Bruins 77-66 on Thursday at Nashville.
The Redhawks were without their leading scorer, junior guard Chris Harris.
“He dinged his thumb up at practice on his shooting hand,” head coach Brad Korn said. “He wasn’t comfortable enough giving it a go so it was a gametime decision. We just decided to not let him go, didn’t want it to get any worse than it is. I think he’ll be fine.”
Nana Akenten scored a career-high 20 points and had 11 rebounds for the Redhawks (3-7, 1-3 OVC). Jordan Love added 12 points and six assists. Nygal Russell had six rebounds.
“He played a phenomenal game,” Korn said. “Obviously when you’re missing a guy like Chris Harris, you need somebody to step up and play enough.”
This was only the third time this season in which the transfer from Nebraska scored double-digit points. His previous high was 17 points against Kansas City in the first game of the season.
“I think Nana has that ability to do that,” Korn said. “I think he’s been trying to do everything the right way and play the right way, play with the team. I think he knew it today that the team needed him a little bit more today and he was able to step up and rise to the occasion. So I think he’s got that ability to do that for our team.”
Nick Muszynski had a season-high 26 points for the Bruins (11-1, 5-0). Luke Smith socred 12 points and seven rebounds, JaCobi Wood added 11 points. Grayson Murphy had nine rebounds, five assists and eight points.
“He’s such a great shooter that when you miss your defensive assignment or when you have a breakdown he makes you pay,” Korn said on Muszynski.
The Bruins took advantage of the Redhawks five turnovers in the first five minutes and started the game on a 10-2 run.
The Redhawks clawed back to tie the game 33-33 on the final minute of the first half on a three-pointer by Akenten.
SEMO took a 35-33 lead at halftime on a pair of free throws by DQ Nicholas. It was his only baskets in the game.
The Bruins started faster in the second half than the first half with an 11-2 run. SEMO once again closed in on Belmont and took advantage of a technical foul by closing in on a two-point margin at 64-62 after a pair of free throw by Akenten.
“I think he’s ready for those moments,” Korn said. “He prepares for those moments. He was focused all week leading up to the game so I’m happy to see him have success.”
Belmont then went on a 13-4 run to close out the game. The Bruins extend their winning streak to eight games and remain perfect in conference play.
SEMO remains winless against Belmont. The Redhawks are 0-10 all-time against the Bruins since Belmont joined the league in 2012-13.
SEMO will remain in Nashville for a rematch with Tennessee State on Saturday at 4 p.m.