CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The setting was perfect. Southeast Missouri State sold out the Show Me Center for the first time in a dozen years for the home finale against No. 16 Murray State.
The outcome was another matter.
After Murray State clinched its third straight Ohio Valley Conference title behind 25 points from Donte Poole in a 75-66 victory on Wednesday night, Redhawks players could only hope they'd get another chance at the Racers in the conference tournament. Southeast Missouri State is currently in third place.
"We're going to be playing them in the tournament, I feel like," Redhawks forward Leon Powell said. "Probably the championship game."
Murray State neutralized a packed house, winning despite a poor game from leading scorer Isaiah Canaan.
Ivan Aska had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Racers (25-1, 13-1), who have won two straight since getting upset at home by Tennessee State last week to end a 23-0 start. They have dominated the series with Southeast Missouri, 50-17.
"We just never could get over the hump," Redhawks coach Dickey Nutt said. "They've got every piece of the puzzle and I think they're worthy of their ranking, no doubt.
But he added, "We feel like we're still in the middle of this thing."
Southeast Missouri State (14-12, 9-5) had won 10 of 14 entering the Murray State game, but shot a season-worst 37.3 percent. The Redhawks hit all six 3-pointers in the second half but couldn't make up a 10-point deficit.
"The outcome wasn't like we wanted, but we thank them," guard Corey Wilford said of the fan support. "Don't let it just be a one-time thing."
Canaan, second in the conference with a 19.6 average, was held scoreless for the first 17 minutes and finished with nine points on 2-for-11 shooting. Canaan had 32 points in the first meeting, an 81-73 victory at home Feb. 2.
"We just tried to key on Canaan and ended up letting the next-best player go off," Wilford said. "We're going to have to stop both of them the next time."
Powell had 13 points and eight rebounds and Wilford added 12 points with three 3-pointers in the second half. Tyler Stone, the Redhawks' leading scorer with a 15.0 average, was scoreless in 15 minutes.
Nutt said Murray State did a good job moving Stone away from the basket.
"They don't give you anything," Nutt said. "We couldn't really get Tyler going and that hurt us a little bit."
The home finale was also the school's first home game against a Top 25 team and attracted a crowd of 7,125, the first sellout at the Show Me Center in 12 years The Redhawks beat Murray State at home last season but have never beaten the Racers in consecutive years at home.
"Our students were here in droves and I appreciate that much much," Nutt said.
Murray State trailed by 11 points early in the second half of the earlier meeting. The Racers led by 10 at halftime of the rematch despite Canaan's shaky start and Southeast Missouri got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Poole hit all four 3-pointers in the first half, two during a stretch of eight consecutive points that put Murray State up 32-20 with 54 seconds to go. That offset a poor start by Canaan, who missed his first six shots against frequent double coverage before hitting a 3-pointer with just under 3 minutes left.
Southeast Missouri State's halftime total was just one more than its season-worst and the Redhawks fell short despite shooting 53 percent the rest of the way.
"We played hard, we tried to play the right way," Nutt said. "We just couldn't get a bucket to fall here and there."