At this time last year, some Southeast Missouri fans were feeling disrespected. As the league gushed over the exploits of Murray State’s freshman guard sensation, fans from the West were left asking ‘what about our guy,”
That guy was junior Jarekious Bradley, who this time last year, was in the middle of seven straight 20+ point games. The Southeast sharpshooter already had 14 of those kind of nights on the year, and would post five more before the end of the year, despite fighting through injury.
As the saying goes, what a difference a year makes.
After Bradley frustration reached a boiling point against Morehead State, leading to two technical fouls and as a result an ejection from the game, Bradley was pulled from the starting lineup against Eastern Kentucky, and it came with a clear message from head coach Dickey Nutt.
“I didn’t start Jarekious Bradley tonight for a reason,” Nutt said after the game. “We had a couple technical fouls last game. That can’t be tolerated. That will not be tolerated.”
Bradley’s numbers this season have taken a noticeable dip. After missing the team’s opening road trip still recovering from injury, the senior seemed at full strength as he notched his first 20-point game at Central Arkansas, his second game back into the lineup. But as non-conference play continued on, Bradley never was able to find the sustained success he had just a year ago, and it wasn’t just him: the whole of Southeast Missouri’s offense seemed to be suffering.
But on the first night of conference play, it looked like the suffering may have been worth it. The Redhawks took a Belmont to the wire in Nashville, led by Bradley’s third 20-point game of the season. Two days later, Bradley posted 29, hitting 10-12 from the floor as SEMO led wire-to-wire over Tennessee State.
As quickly as the Redhawks seemed to be back, now they’re on the outside yet again.
Bradley isn’t the only Redhawks who’s being sent a message by his coach right now. Senior Nino Johnson played just 12 minutes in the Redhawks loss to Eastern Kentucky, another clear sign about his lack on consistent play inside.
Southeast’s struggles aren’t about one of two guys, this is a team sport after all, and there are other guys on the roster who are asked to step up just like the two of them. But SEMO enters an important stretch of their schedule: at Jacksonville State, vs Tennessee Tech and vs UT Martin.
Because of those four teams, including SEMO, odds are one or more won’t make the OVC Tournament this year.
This is the time of year teams need leaders to step up. Last year, Bradley was that leader the team needed. For SEMO to rebound, to show that this past week wasn’t a sign of things to come, he needs to be that leader again.
We know it’s in him. We’ve seen that it’s in him. We know he cares — players that don’t care generally don’t get technical fouls in the way he did.
Now, he needs to channel that frustration, channel that emotion, and use it to lead his Redhawks on the floor.
Because beyond scoring, beyond stops, right now SEMO needs a leader on the floor most of all.
The Jacksonville State side of things: JSU is in a very similar boat: they need a conference win, and they get the Redhawks at home. If there’s one major thing the Gamecocks need to do better than they did against Murray on Sunday, it’s getting the ball to the rim. JSU finished the night with just 16 points in the paint: 10 of those came in the game’s first 12 minutes, when things were still close. Jump shots are rarely going to fall for 40-minutes straight, and JSU shot just 31.7% against the Racers in that lopsided loss. Darion Rackley, who scored a career-high 28 points in that defeat, is a good jump-shooter. But you have to get the ball to the rim. It’s an absolute must.
To put some more numbers to the issue: on the year, JSU has taken less than 30% of their shots at the rim. (SEMO, for reference, has taken 33% of their shots at the rim. Murray State? 35%) On those shots, JSU is shooting 47.2%
On two-point jumpers, which make up 35% of their shots? The Gamecocks hit just 37.8% of those.