Jacksonville, AL (Southeast Missourian) - The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team rebounded from an unusual start to notch its first Ohio Valley Conference victory of the season.
Southeast saw a 16-point second-half lead evaporate Sunday, but the Redhawks recovered to beat Jacksonville State 76-67 in Jacksonville, Ala.
The Redhawks, winning their second straight game, improved to 2-10 overall and 1-2 in OVC play. The Gamecocks fell to 2-10 and 0-2 with their sixth consecutive defeat.
Southeast snapped a 12-game OVC losing streak and a 15-game road losing streak.
"I'm so proud of this team," said second-year Southeast coach Dickey Nutt, whose squad posted only one OVC road victory last season. "This group has a lot of character."
Southeast trailed 1-0 before Sunday's contest even started as sophomore forward Waylon Jones was assessed a technical foul when an official spotted him dunking during warmups.
Players routinely dunk during initial pre-game warmups when officials are not present but are prohibited from that once referees take the court.
JSU hit 1 of the 2 free throws on the technical.
"It's very unusual. I don't think I've ever been involved with a situation like that," Nutt said. "I wasn't very happy about it, and I let Waylon know pretty quick. There are no excuses."
The Redhawks, ahead 36-31 at halftime, exploded early in the second half to build a 50-34 advantage just 5 minutes, 39 seconds into the period.
JSU then outscored Southeast 26-9 to to go ahead 60-59 with 4:50 left.
Southeast responded with a 6-0 run, regaining the lead for good on two free throws by redshirt freshman point guard Lucas Nutt that made it 61-60 with 4:40 remaining.
Junior forward Leon Powell scored four straight points for a 65-60 lead.
The Gamecocks cut their deficit to 65-62, but Southeast finished strong and hit 9 of 10 free throws to secure the win.
Southeast entered the day last in the OVC in free-throw shooting at 62.2 percent. The Redhawks made 24 of 32 (75 percent) Sunday, including 22 of 26 (84.6 percent) in the second half.
"We stepped up and hit free throws. I was really proud of that," Nutt said.
Lucas Nutt had his second career double-double with 16 points and 10 assists while playing a team-high 39 minutes. He made 9 of 9 free throws.
"What a phenomenal performance by Lucas, the way he handled this basketball team from start to finish," coach Nutt said.
Powell had 10 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. It was the third double-double of his rookie Southeast season.
Senior forward Cameron Butler, playing through painful foot problems, had his second career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Butler was 7 of 9 from the line.
"What an outstanding performance by Cameron. You can just tell he's hobbling, but he's so tough," Nutt said.
Sophomore guard Marland Smith, who broke out of a season-long shooting slump in Southeast's previous game, had another big performance with a team-high 19 points, 15 in the first half. He hit 3 of 5 3-pointers.
"It's really good to see Marland get going," Nutt said.
Senior guard Anthony Allison added 14 points, 10 early in the second half as Southeast built its 50-34 lead.
The Redhawks shot 50 percent from the field (24 of 48), held JSU to 38.3 percent (23 of 60) and had a 42-29 rebounding advantage.
Southeast played its first game since Friday's announcement that junior guard/forward Nate Schulte would be out indefinitely due to a blood clot in his right shoulder that required a medical procedure.
The Redhawks remain without second-leading scorer Nick Niemczyk, a juco transfer guard averaging 13.4 points who hasn't played in the past six games and will likely miss the rest of the season with knee problems.
That left Southeast with only nine players dressed out Sunday. And Jones did not see any action. Nutt said that was due to a knee problem and not the pre-game technical.
"Everything in the world was thrown against this team, but I told them about three days ago that we're going to refuse to drop our head and duck our shoulders just because life's not perfect," Nutt said. "I couldn't be prouder."
Southeast closes out its two-game OVC road trip Tuesday at Tennessee Tech (4-5, 2-0) in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.