Depth proves to be an issue for 'Hawks in first loss

Third-year Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Brad Korn instructs his team during a recent exhibition game against Fontbonne at the Show Me Center.
Tom Davis ~

Of the 13 scholarship players on the Southeast Missouri State men’s basketball squad this season, five have missed time with injury (Dylan Branson, Israel Barnes, Gavyn Elkamil), illness (Josh Mitchell), or NCAA eligibility issues (freshman center David Idada).

How that shows on the court was clear in the Redhawks’ 73-60 loss at Bradley on Saturday.

With four players (Phillip Russell, Aquan Smart, Kobe Clark, and Adam Larson) having foul trouble, and two (Clark and Chris Harris) playing 38 minutes, SEMO (3-1) ran out of steam late against the Braves (3-1).

“We’re going to keep plugging away,” third-year Redhawk coach Brad Korn said. “I like the fight in our guys.”

That was evident throughout the second half against a team (Bradley) that was picked to finish second this season in the Missouri Valley Conference.

With 12:48 remaining in the game, the Redhawks trailed by 10, but over the ensuing 8:14, Korn’s kids cut their deficit to five points on five different occasions.

However, following a jumper by Smart to pull SEMO to within 63-58, Bradley tore off on a 7-0 run to seal the win.

“We gave up way too many easy points in the paint,” Korn said. “And our defense wore down in the second half.”

The Braves outscored SEMO 40-14 in the paint, which was exacerbated by the fact starting SEMO center Nate Johnson finished with just two points and no rebounds in 12 minutes of playing time, and Mitchell (a 6-foot-8 junior forward) played just one minute.

“We have to get more rebounding out of Nate,” Korn said, “to be blunt.”

There is hope on the horizon for SEMO, however.

Korn expects Branson (a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard) to return for Tuesday’s game against NAIA program William Woods (6:30 p.m. at the Show Me Center), and Barnes (a 6-foot-4 senior guard) may return on Saturday when the Redhawks battle Boston University (1 p.m.) in the Milwaukee Tournament.

“Their return will help everybody,” Korn said. “Kobe won’t have to do everything. Kobe won’t have to get every rebound. They are bigger guards, who can help you rebound and adds depth to your whole team.”

Harris paced SEMO with 14 points while grabbing five rebounds against Bradley.

Russell added 13 points and a team-best seven assists, while Clark (10 points, nine rebounds) and Josh Earley (eight points, six rebounds) also contributed.

“It will be nice to be back at full strength,” Korn said. “If you would have told me that (Branson and Barnes) would be out, and David would not be eligible right away, and we would have been 3-1, I would have said ‘OK, we’ll take that any way that we can get it.’”

Elkamil out

As far as Idada is concerned, he’ll be available when the NCAA rules on him, and there is no timeline being given for that, which has frustrated Korn.

One player who won’t be available this year is Elkamil.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard recently had surgery on his labrum (shoulder) and will miss this entire season after transferring this year from Tulsa.

He will return in 2023-24 and have three seasons of eligibility.

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