CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Eastern Illinois rolled into the Show Me Center and put on an impressive display of theater and suspense.
It climaxed in a striking loss.
The Panthers exited having been served a harsh taste of their recent method of attack. Despite leading by 14 points in the first half, EIU (12-9, 5-3 Ohio Valley) lost to Southeast Missouri State 64-59 Saturday afternoon, allowing an 8-0 run to end the game and going scoreless on its final five possessions.
Ledarrius Brewer, on an isolation play in the corner, jetted by Mack Smith for a go-ahead dunk with 46 seconds left, giving SEMO a 61-59 lead. EIU, on its next possession, turned the ball over when Rade Kukobat set a moving screen near half-court. When the Panthers got the ball back next, this time down 62-59, Shareef Smith had the ball stripped away in the lane by Jonathan Dalton with 24 seconds left.
Josiah Wallace led EIU with 21 points. Mack Smith added 12.
Early on, EIU appeared on its way to winning a game wire-to-wire and never even needing to rally like it has often done this year. The Panthers raced to a 19-5 lead. They hit tough shots, forced turnovers and allowed little space for SEMO to operate. Everything was rolling.
SEMO, using some ball pressure and tempo, jockeyed its way back into the game and stiff-armed EIU’s attempts to make a run. The Redhawks denied EIU open shots, kept offensive players in front of them and prevented EIU from scoring in the lane or passing out to shooters. Only 11 of EIU’s 26 field goals were assisted. They defended without fouling – EIU shot two free throws all game. Both came late in the first half, when Dalton was called for a hook-and-hold Flagrant 1 foul.
Dalton, otherwise, stood out. He stayed glued to Shareef Smith’s hip and helped hold him to 4 points and three assists.
“We didn’t have very many good possessions, but I really think that was because of their defense, honestly,” EIU coach Jay Spoonhour said.
SEMO (7-14, 2-6) whittled its deficit to two at halftime, and early in the second half, tied the score three times. EIU first turned to Mack Smith to respond. He canned a foul-line jumper to untie it the first time, then made a layup on a high-low pass from Aboubacar Diallo to do so again.
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Brewer, though, gave SEMO a 40-39 lead, its first of the game, on a corner 3-pointer with 12:58 left. Before it, the Redhawks had two open 3s that would have given them the lead. They missed both.
JaQualis Matlock then raised his hand to step up. He returned the lead to EIU with a put-back layup. Later, he stole a loose ball, made a face-up jumper in the paint and followed with a defensive rebound.
Then trouble struck. Matlock picked up his fourth foul with 7:02 left while going up for a defensive rebound. Spoonhour took him out, with EIU leading 49-46. Immediately after Isaiah Gable made a tying 3-pointer 55 seconds later, Spoonhour summoned him to come back in. He stayed in until fouling out with 3:24 left and EIU leading by three.
Cam Burrell landed awkwardly on his ankle while coming down from an attempt at a rebound late in the first half. He was taken to the locker room and didn’t return until the team came out for the second half. He sat on the end of the bench, his right leg resting on the chairs next to him with the ankle taped up with ice and an ace bandage.
“A lot of those rebounds and shot contests, Cam’s really good at that stuff,” Spoonhour said.
“We really missed him in the second half.”
*EIU was 0-7 on 3s in the second half and 5-22 overall. The Panthers shot 44.1 percent from the floor.
*SEMO, even in the win, shot 38 percent overall and 40 in the second half.
*Brewer had a game-high 24 points.