Basketball team drops to 3-4 in conference play
The Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team has had its fair share of ups and downs this season.
At 9-11, the Redhawks have an 8-3 record at home and are 3-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
The Redhawks are currently ranked fifth in the OVC West Division and lost to fellow West Division opponent UT Martin 70-53 on Saturday.
UT Martin is currently 4-2 in conference play and 12-7 overall, ranking the Skyhawks third in the west.
Leading scorer, senior guard/forward Jarekious Bradley was suspended for the game due to missing class.
Senior guard Isiah Jones stepped in for Bradley and scored a game and career-high 21 points in the conference loss.
This was the ninth game that Jones has started in this season and he is currently averaging 8.2 points per game.
In the games that Bradley has played in, he has been the only Redhawk to average more than 10 points per contest by averaging 15.8 per game.
Having passed the halfway mark of the season, the Redhawks hope to make a push to advance to the OVC tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Redhawks have had cardiac games, winning at home in buzzer beater fashion over SIU and breaking records as well during the season.
Four-year starter Nino Johnson has become the leading shot blocker in Southeast men's basketball history during his senior campaign and leads the team with 45 on the year.
William "Bud" Eley, who had 156 for his career, held the previous all-time blocks record. This wasn't the first time that Johnson broke a record of Eley's. In Johnson's sophomore year, he compiled 84 blocks, which broke Eley's regular-season blocks record of 75.
"I have always been defensive minded," Johnson said. "You've got to defend in order to get wins."
The 6-foot-9 forward, who can play center, also leads the team in rebounds by averaging 6.7 boards per game.
According to coach Dickey Nutt, the team is starting to make a better defensive effort, which is helping them compete better in the second half.
"We've been playing hard as of late," Nutt said. "When things are good it's easy to be a good teammate, but when things get tough in the trenches, now what kind of character can we have? What kind of teammate can you be? What kind of character can you have? As of late, we have showed that."
This is Nutt's fifth season as the team's coach and Southeast has finished second in West Division for the last two seasons.
The team went 8-8 in OVC play last year and advanced to the tournament but lost Eastern Kentucky in the quarterfinals.
Southeast is currently averaging more points scored than scored against with 66.3 points per game and 65.8 opposed.
Wins in the two games before Saturday's loss gave the Redhawks confidence and momentum as they try to maneuver throughout conference play. Over the last few games, Southeast's numbers have been better than the norm, but free throws have been a soft spot for the squad.
With their sub .500 start in OVC play, the Redhawks know that it is early and that they can still make a push toward the OVC championship.
Johnson and the Redhawks are optimistic going in to the final stretch of the season.
"We've got to stay humble and stay together," Johnson said. "We know the OVC is going to be tough, but if we stick together and have the confidence we've had from the last few games, I think we're unstoppable."