CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (SEMO) – Robert Covington turned in a
double-double 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead Tennessee State (15-10,
8-4) to a 75-72 win over Southeast Missouri (12-11, 7-4) Saturday night
at the Show Me Center.
With the loss, Southeast dropped out of second-place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. The Redhawks are now behind both TSU and Tennessee Tech.
Covington, who spent the last 8:18 of the first half on the bench with two fouls, contributed 15 points and seven rebounds in a second half, which saw the Tigers outscore the Redhawks, 45-37.
Southeast held a 58-51 lead with 8:58 left to play in the game when TSU scored 15 unanswered points to pull ahead, 66-58. The Redhawks went 0-of-7 from the field and turned the ball over five times in a 5:38 span without a point.
Lucas Nutt later buried a three-pointer to narrow the Tigers lead to 69-66 with 1:21 remaining, but M.J. Rhett converted a three-point play on TSU's next possession. After that, the Tigers made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 29 seconds to secure their fifth-straight win and seventh in eight games.
The fact that TSU shot 26 free throws (17-of-26) and Southeast had only one free throw attempt (0-of-1) in the second half didn't help matters either.
"The most discouraging thing is that we were really trying to get to the free throw line," said Southeast head coach Dickey Nutt.
Tied, 9-9, early in the first half, TSU put together a 14-0 run to take a 23-9 lead with under 10 minutes left to play.
Kenny Moore knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to key the spurt that ended on Kellen Thornton's jumper with 9:55 remaining.
Southeast went scoreless for 5:26 before Nutt ended the drought with a pair of free throws immediately after Thornton was whistled for a technical foul.
The Redhawks then capitalized by outscoring TSU, 18-5, in the last 7:32 to pull ahead, 35-30, at the break after Covington got his second foul.
Corey Wilford and Marland Smith each led Southeast with 16 points and six rebounds.
Wilford made 6-of-15 field goals, including 4-of-9 from downtown, in 29 minutes off the bench. His 16 points are a season-high. Smith shot 7-of-16 from the floor.
Nutt followed with 14 points, while Leon Powell added a double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds. It marked Powell's team-high sixth double-double this year.
True freshman Nino Johnson gave Southeast some big minutes off the bench, as well. Johnson scored four points, grabbed three rebounds, dished out two assists and gathered a block in 11 minutes.
"I thought Nino did a super job," said Nutt. "He showed his talent and ability."
Covington shot 9-of-17 from the field to lead all TSU scorers.
Kellen Thornton and Moore chipped in double figures off the bench with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Southeast outrebounded TSU, 49-35, with 24 of its rebounds coming on the offensive glass. The Redhawks also committed 17 turnovers to only five from TSU.
The Tigers shot finished with 20-of-31 free throws, outweighing Southeast's 8-of-14.
TSU handed the Redhawks their first home loss this season, just two days after Southeast faced undefeated and nationally-ranked Murray State on the road.
"I was worried about a letdown and I didn't feel like we were clicking on all cylinders tonight," said Nutt. "This is a small bump in the road and we have to bounce back."
Nick Niemczyk missed his fifth-straight game after suffering a concussion during a team practice on Jan. 18. Niemczyk was cleared to play tonight, but did not see action.
Southeast returns to action when it hosts UT Martin on Feb. 9. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., CT, at the Show Me Center.