As a successful ex-coach (the Bloomington Pantagraph called me that when I stopped coaching from the bench) and basketball referee, I have some qualifications to judge the progress of the Bradley Braves since Jim Les arrived as head BB coach four years ago. While I did not graduate from Bradley, I was asked by then freshman BB coach Joe Stowell to join the Chiefs club where I was elected to the position of Vice-President and in charge of fundraising. Joe and I met when he was coach at Armington and I was coach of Heyworth. In our one high school encounter, Heyworth won 84-42 and I gained Joe’s respect. I later refereed for him at the field house; freshman games. When my friend now head coach at Bradley, was removed and replaced by Dick Versace, I stepped down but remained a Bradley fan and financial supporter. In the new field house, I had 6 seats, 10 rows up from approximately center court; then as Bradley’s succession of mediocre coaches came and left, I gave up two seats and then four seats and two years into Les’s coaching career at Bradley, I gave up my last two seats. I also gave up sponsoring a yearly basketball trophy.
Tonight, I watched Bradley play some excellent basketball in the first half to take a 10 point lead over Creighton. Then I decided for the first time as a spectator to take notes because I had the usual feeling that Bradley could not hold the lead.
Here is a step by step of the happenings of the 2nd half:
Bradley committed three fouls in the first minute. Ruffin dribbled off his foot. O’Bryant made a not smart foul. Same for Somerville who made three fouls in 5 minutes. Bennett called for charge. Ill advised three point shots from pro range by Somerville. Bradley now outscored 18-4. Intentional foul called on Ruffin. Adams faked out of his shorts. J. Taui made two nice aggressive under the basket shots but no one back on defense. J.T. jerked from game but pretty hard to believe he was responsible for being first man back when he just scored on a lay-up drive. J.T. never returned to the game. Franklin hit 30f 4 three pointers but now Somerville and Ruffin were firing away and while Franklin who ended up with I believe 18 points couldn’t get the ball out of the hands of Sommerivlle and Ruffin. Bennett stepped out of bounds; O’Bryant who seemed to disappear at times missed a dunk. Franklin finally gets the ball and hits his fourth three pointer.
Dumb foul on Wright after he got shoved first and shoved back and referee called Wright for technical. O’Bryant loses man and Creighton player scores and is fouled. Score now 58-54 Creighton and Bradley is still in the game. Two consecutive ill-advised shots by Somerville and ill-advised foul by Somerville. Bradley still in the game at 61-60. O’Bryant loses his man and commits his fourth foul. Somerville throws the ball away. O’Bryant leaves man wide open. Bennett makes ill-advised foul. Poor shot by Bennett, poor foul by Ruffin, Creighton man wide open under the basket and scores lay-up. Wild shooting fouling in closing minutes yet with seconds to go, Bradley still could tie the game. More bad shots by whoever could get their hands on the ball; mainly Somerville.
Summary: Bradley played a great 1st half. Ruffin was good. 2nd half, Ruffin thought because he was 11 points over his seasons average that he was the star on the team. He scored 6 more points in the 2nd half basically after the game was over. Somerville reminded the Missouri coach why he was happy Somerville transferred to Bradley. Somerville was never a factor in the game; Bradley was not out hustled but they were out coached. I don’t fault Somerville, I fault the coach for letting him take pro range 3 point shots and not being a factor when the game could still have been won by Bradley.
Bradley is now 2and 5 in the Valley; 9 and 7 overall and the only chance to now play a post season game is if they win the conference tournament. I’m taking bets because while this is a scrappy team with inconsistent talent and without a good coach. Hard nosed Bradley fans and Les supporters will say Bradley played a heck of a game and on the road, what did you expect? I’ll tell you what we expect, we expect a lot better than what we have had since the days of Stowell and Versace. Bradley had superior talent on the floor tonight but the team appears to be in the same disarray as past Les seasons. This is Les’s fourth year and he has not lived up to his promises.
In the meantime, proven successful high school coach Chuck Buescher sits on the bench looking not too happy. Wayne McClain does the same down at Illinois. McClain appeared to be the top candidate for the Bradley coaching job four years ago, but Les had the personality to win over the board. We’ll see if the Bradley President and board really are interested in winning basketball. If not, as I suggested a few years ago maybe Bradley should drop down to a lower level conference.
For those of you not familiar with Bradley BB, Dick Versace, who I believe is now on the staff of the Memphis Grizzlies was an excellent recruiter but left Bradley sometime after an NCAA investigation which an attorney close to the situation told me later, that if the NCAA had asked the right questions, Bradley would have been fried.
This is my game summary, read Kirk Wessler in the JS tomorrow. Only thing he may say, and Wessler is pretty blunt, is that Ruffin had a career high point night. I hope he says that Ruffin was never a factor in the second half and that Ruffin should not believe that at now 8 points a game, that he is just a slightly better than average point guard and not the person who should keep on firing when there are better shooters on the court. Ruffin had a great 1st half but games are seldom won with a good first half only.
Bradley would have been better off with Ruffin on the bench in the 2nd half and ditto for All-Conference player Somerville. O’Bryant proved why as a seven footer, he wasn’t recruited by top 25 teams.