SEMO Men’s Basketball Zeros to Heroes


Southeast Missouri State University(SEMO) men’s basketball has made the community of Cape Girardeau and the State of Missouri proud with their recent trip to the NCAA Division 1 men’s championship basketball tournament. Their success can be attributed to many things, from the players all the way to the support staff everyone chimed in to contribute to an amazing season.

Going into the season Semo was predicted to end up in 5th place in the OVC tournament power rankings by the people at They defied the odds, always managing to stay in a top 3 position for the majority of the season and even being a couple of wins away from being the number one seed team going into the conference tournament. Sadly a rough last couple of games would drop them to the 5th seed with many people not believing they would make it out of the first 2 rounds with a game against the number 1 seed Morehead State awaiting them in the third round of the tournament. 

Of course, a strong postseason performance that fans were amazed by, would send Semo to their first OVC tournament championship since 2000 with a chance to make it to the National men’s basketball tournament. A tight game back and forth with multiple lead changes and dropped hearts from many fans would end with Southeastern on top with a score of 89-82 in an overtime stunner win over Tennessee Tech. When asked, assistant coach J.R Reynolds had this to say about the team’s performance, “We never gave up, and came together right when we needed to.” An amazing season capped off in a spectacular fashion. 

With the OVC tournament behind them, it was time for Semo to look ahead at their first tournament game against Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the very first game of the national tournament. The ultimate goal is a chance to play the number 1 seed Alabama in Birmingham. The team traveled to Dayton on March 13 with high hopes and modest expectations of a hopeful successful run in the tournament. With a warm greeting from fans who made the trip along with the hotel staff in Dayton Ohio, the Redhawks were fired up with their sights set on the game of their lives the following day. 


With the stage set, it was finally time for tip-off. Texas A&M CC would hold the lead for the majority of the game with Redhawks not far behind always managing to stay within 10 points and even cutting the lead to 3 or 4 in key moments of the game, but the most important moment of the game would take place with just under a minute to go in regulation. Down by three, the Redhawks would have the ball on their side of the court. Phil Russel (Starting Guard) was keeping the pace under control with the ball near mid-court. With a quick drive, he would set his defender up for a beautiful stepback 3-pointer to tie the game. Unfortunately, the shot would rim out and with Texas securing the rebound, the game was all but over. 


Although the ending of the season was unfortunate this would not be the story that defined the Redhawk’s incredible year. They ended the season with a conference championship, a 1st team all-conference guard in Phil Russel, and the OVC tournament’s most valuable player.