Johnson leads SEMO to victory over McNeese

By From staff and wire reports

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Nino Johnson scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Southeast Missouri

State past McNeese State 64-53 on Thursday night.

Tyler Stone added 18 points for the

Redhawks (2-1) and was 8 of 11 from the field. Johnson and Stone

combined for 17 of Southeast

Missouri State’s 27 field goals.

Dontae Cannon scored 10 points to lead the Cowboys (1-2) but was 2 of 11 from the field. McNeese shot 36 percent.

Kevin Hardy, coming off a career-high 18 points at LSU, added nine points along with Mitchell and Guidry.

The Cowboys led for much of the first half, but a 14-4 run to close out the half gave the Redhawks a 33-24 halftime lead.

Southeast Missouri State never trailed in the second half, leading by as many as 21.

Marland Smith scored three points, but

the Redhawks guard’s five 3-point attempts moved him ahead of Derek

Winans as the school’s

all-time leader in that category.

The Cowboys cut a 21-point second half deficit to 59-49 after a 3-pointer by Jeremie Mitchell with 3:40 to play.

McNeese had a chance to cut the lead into single digits following a defensive rebound by Desharick Guidry. But a turnover

gave the ball back to the Redhawks, who responded with a dunk by Johnson go up by 12.

“I told the guys in the locker room, we need to continue to get better every game and I think we showed some improvement tonight,” said McNeese coach Dave Simmons. “I saw some flashes of the type of

team we can be but it’s going to be a process.”

McNeese built a 9-2 lead to start the game behind baskets from Austin Lewis and Hardy as well as a couple of free throws from

Cannon. A Stone jumper with 12:16 to play in the first half gave the Redhawks a 15-13 lead.

The Cowboys answered with four straight points on a jumper by Guidry and two free throws from Cannon to make it 17-15 at the

8:53 mark. The two teams traded the lead over the next 2 minutes and a 3-pointer by Mitchell gave the Cowboys their final

lead at 20-19 with 6:22 to play.

The Redhawks scored 12 of the next 14 points and had an 8-0 run snapped after Lewis pulled down an offensive rebound and slammed

it back in with two seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 33-24 at the break.

The Cowboys shot 35.7 percent (20 of 56) from the field but did a better job in the second half by hitting 11 of 26 for 42 percent. McNeese also connected on 5 of 18 from long range, a far cry from the 0-for-9 it put up at LSU.

McNeese also improved its ball distribution from Tuesday night’s loss at LSU, finishing with 11 assists and 10 turnovers after

a one-assist, 19-turnover effort against the Tigers.

McNeese was outrebounded for the third consecutive game, this time by a 33-29 margin, but did a lot better job on the defensive

glass. SEMO was held to five offensive boards and six second-chance points.

Lewis, Guidry and Hardy all had five rebounds each while Hardy led the team with five assists and three steals.

Southeast Missouri connected on 54 percent of its shots while its two big men, Johnson and Stone, combined to knock in 18

of 23 from the floor.