PORTSMOUTH — They say timing is everything.
First-year Shawnee State University men’s basketball head coach Michael Hunter’s first two games as the Bears’ head coach featured tough losses of three and four points — one on a double-digit comeback that fell a possession short at Simmons College of Kentucky, and another on a lead that Shawnee State lost in the waning moments against (RV) Bethel, Ind.
However, down by 16 in the second half against No. 5 Georgetown Tuesday night, those early setbacks — quite literally — led to an even greater comeback.
As a result, the third time was — indeed — the charm.
Behind by a 61-45 margin with 13:46 to play, Shawnee State put together an all-time great performance in program history — as the Bears rallied from that deficit behind Keith Germain and Tyreke Johnson, who combined for 17 consecutive points over a span of 4:05 to lead the Bears back.
Germain’s 30 points and eight rebounds on 12-of-19 shooting, along with Johnson’s 18 points and four rebounds on a 5-of-7 mark from the floor and a 4-of-6 showing from long distance, helped spearhead a spirited 38-17 run — with Johnson’s game-tying three with 2:54 remaining and Germain’s go-ahead and-one jumper with 2:17 left putting Shawnee State in front to stay.
The end result was an 83-78 victory over Georgetown (Ky.) — at SSU’s Waller Gymnasium in Portsmouth.
The victory marked the first at Shawnee State for Hunter — who won his head coaching debut at Waller Gymnasium in the process.
The win was also the first for Shawnee State assistant coaches Chandler Fontino and Brent Gaither in their own SSU home debuts.
Tale of the Tape
Two of the key factors that bit Shawnee State in its loss to (RV) Bethel — free throws and offensive rebounds allowed — were areas that the Bears performed a complete 180 en route to Tuesday’s victory.
SSU, which shot 8-of-17 from the line against the Pilots, went an outstanding 18-of-21 from the charity stripe in the contest to shoot at an 85.7-percent clip — compared to Georgetown’s 11-of-19 mark from the free-throw line.
The Bears knocked down each of their final 12 free throws, and went a perfect 10-of-10 from the line in the second half of play.
The Bears also cleaned up on the glass when the opportunities were there — ultimately posting a 25-24 rebounding advantage, all the while holding the Tigers to nine offensive boards as opposed to Bethel’s 18 this past Saturday.
In addition to those numbers, Shawnee State shot an efficient 28-of-55 (51-percent) from the field and went 9-of-18 (50-percent) from three-point range by virtue of posting 16 assists on those 28 made baskets.
The Bears, likewise, committed just 10 turnovers all game.
Germain sets new career-high
Finishing in a variety of different ways throughout the course of the evening, Germain’s 30 points was a new NAIA career-high for the senior forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Germain, who scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half alone, added in five of his eight rebounds in the same half of play — as the rack-attacker made a living eating Georgetown’s lunch in the short corner and low-post areas.
His go-ahead and-one with 2:17 to play was a jumper from the short corner that Germain never was phased on, despite taking significant contact on the near-side play.
Johnson keeps hot streak going
Needing an additional scoring partner to help finish the job, Johnson made Georgetown pay for focusing heavily on Germain’s explosiveness — as the crafty 6-6 junior guard out of Woodstock, Ga. simply could not miss over the game’s final five minutes.
With Shawnee State down 75-64 with 5:31 left, Johnson — from the five-minute to the 2:54 mark, scored 10 out of the Bears’ 12 points to lift them on a 12-1 run that tied the score.
Germain then followed with his and-one, less than 40 seconds later, capping off the game-deciding 15-1 push.
Johnson ultimately scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, and added all four of his rebounds in the final 20 minutes to boot.
Beard and Webb all steady
When defenses tightened up on Germain and Johnson, the steady play of John Dawson, Elkin Ramirez, Tre Beard and Tony Webb Je. kept Georgetown honest.
Dawson, Ramirez and Beard were rock solid on both ends of the floor — especially from a pass distribution standpoint, as the trio combined for 10 assists to just two turnovers for a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Dawson’s nine points led the guard trio, Ramirez had the most efficient shooting performance by going 3-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-4 from deep, and Beard — one of Shawnee State’s two returning letterwinners along with Feisal Crumby Jr. — fittingly nailed the game-sealing free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining.
Beard finished with seven points, five assists, three rebounds and no turnovers in a team-high 33 minutes played.
As for Webb, the 6-7 big provided an excellent change of pace — and the former NCAA Division I offensive lineman from Northern Illinois showcased impressive athleticism on two separate plays with a hook shot in the lane and a one-handed dunk in the first half to finish with seven points and three rebounds on 3-of-3 shooting in 16 minutes played.
SSU handed the Georgetown men (6-1) their first loss of the year, as the No. 5 Tigers had defeated every official opponent they’d played to this point by 11 points or more.
Georgetown had come in scoring over 100 points twice — including a 106-71 victory over Simmons College of Kentucky — and had not allowed more than 70 points to any team in a regular-season game until Tuesday evening.
An impressive showing in an exhibition contest against NCAA Division I Kentucky — a 92-69 setback for Georgetown — was the only blemish on the Tigers’ resume of any sort coming in.
Shawnee State (1-2) will look to turn Tuesday’s victory into further results — as the Bears take on (RV) Indiana-South Bend (2-2) on Saturday at 3 p.m. in South Bend, Ind.