Column: SEMO hoops shows it cares, but it takes more than that for success
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian
Let’s start with this: The Southeast Missouri State men’s basketball team has not quit on this season. That much was obvious in Saturday’s 75-73 loss at the Show Me Center to Tennessee State.
The effort put forth by the Redhawks (4-13, 0-4 Ohio Valley Conference) for all 40 minutes against the Tigers (11-6, 3-1) was unquestioned.
What is questionable about this squad is its inability to score the basketball for an entire 40-minute game, as well as its gross deficiency of basketball intellect. Both were plain to see in this frustrating defeat.
Southeast has endured offensive dry spells often, so the fact it did so yet again is no surprise. However, to not make a single basket over the final 9:30 of any game – at any level – is mind-blowing.
Over that span, the Tigers outscored Southeast 17-5, as the hosts missed five shots and turned the ball over four times.
But fifth-year Southeast coach Rick Ray felt the beginning of the second half played a bigger part in the defeat than the end of it.
“The fact of the matter is,” Ray said afterward, “we lost that game with our second-half start.”
What he was referring to was his team:
- giving up a lay-in to start the half
- turning the ball over three times in the first 1:58, and
- fouling the shooter in allowing an “and one” play
Junior guard Oscar Kao was playing so poorly from the opening of the second half, Ray couldn’t get him out of the game quickly enough.
Ray summoned sophomore guard Alex Caldwell to replace Kao after his first turnover of the half (1:06 into play) and before the next dead ball, Kao had turned it over again (31 seconds later).
It was just one of many moments where a complete lack of basketball intellect was put on full display by the Southeast players.
Kao needed to understand that his struggling team had held a 16-point lead in the opening half (it’s biggest of the season) before allowing it to dissipate to eight by halftime. Playing smart basketball in the second half would be critical in regaining the Redhawks’ momentum.
“Three straight turnovers and then letting guys just drive right by us,” Ray lamented of the start.
Kao wasn’t alone in his obliviousness.
Redshirt freshman wing Jordan Love played a career-high 26 minutes Saturday but his lack of experience showed to close the opening half.
He caught a pass with four seconds remaining and dribbled before… passing it to junior forward Isaiah Gable at the 26-foot mark with one second remaining.
All Gable could do was quickly heave a throw more than a shot, which needless to say didn’t connect.
That is one of the many details that this team lacks and Ray said as much afterward.
“I know it’s the first four minutes of a half and it doesn’t matter,” Ray said of the players’ thoughts, “oh, it matters.”
The most egregious act of poor decision making came at the absolute worst time.
After stunningly allowing Tennessee State to grab an offensive rebound with seven seconds left and put in the eventual game-winning shot, Southeast still had 6.6 seconds remaining to make a play.
Following a timeout, which most assuredly Ray explained in detail what needed to be done, the ball was inbounded to Caldwell, who for a second, actually started to patiently walk the ball up the court. He quickly came to his senses and sped up the court, but by that time the play was hurried.
Caldwell had an open look from beyond the arc but chose to pass to center Quatarrius Wilson, who wasn’t really expecting the pass, and didn’t have enough time to get a shot off.
“He should have taken the shot,” Ray said of Caldwell. “He was open.”
The discombobulated action encapsulated Southeast’s 2019-20 season.
This is a program that has demonstrated from its opening game at Vanderbilt that it has the ability at both ends of the floor, but it can’t sustain it.
And the Redhawks don’t have the experience, focus, or basketball intellect to overcome extended adversity throughout tightly contested games.
“We had so many times coming out of timeouts,” Ray said, “where we drew up something and the execution was just so poor. We had empty possessions out of timeouts simply because guys didn’t know where to go or how to cut, so we got nothing out of them.”
This team demonstrated Saturday that it cares. That’s nice, but unfortunately, it takes a lot more than that to win games.
Tom Davis is the regional sports editor for Semoball.com and the Southeast Missourian.