Keeping the foot on the gas pedal is always necessary if a team wants to close out contests, especially in conference play.
On Thursday evening, the Shawnee State University women’s basketball program wasted no time doing just that as the Bears held the Life (Ga.) women’s basketball program to just five second-quarter points and followed that effort by exploding for 31 third-quarter tallies en route to collecting a 98-54 victory on Thursday evening in a Mid-South Conference bout at Frank and Janis Waller Gymnasium.
For Jeff Nickel, Shawnee State’s ability to find the open spot and teammate on the floor — which ultimately led to five double-figure scorers — was a strong suit all night for the Bears, who took home their 14th contest in a row with the victory.
“I thought that we had good balance in our scoring,” Nickel said. “I thought that we did a lot of good things. We had 23 assists, we shot well from the free throw line, we shot well from three-point range, and we shot 58 percent for the game and 73 percent from the free throw line. We shot the ball well and shared the ball well.”
After trailing by a 7-4 margin to start the game, Shawnee State wasted no time changing its fortunes by getting Poe more involved on the low block, leading to a 14-2 spurt that ultimately put SSU up by as much as 18-9 before the Bears settled for a 23-16 first-quarter advantage. Poe’s play in the first quarter, however, was topped by her own production in the second, where the senior forward continued to use her effective positioning and ability to finish off effective high-low post plays en route to a 15-point outing by the end of the first half.
“Lydia did a really good job,” Nickel said. “She did a really good job of face-bumping, posting up, ducking in, and getting in really good position to score. She did a good job. She caught the ball and scored. I’m really proud of what she did with her touches.”
As impressive as Poe’s outing was, however, SSU’s defense was even better. While Poe continued to produce on the low block, the Bears proceeded to establish a lead that proved to be insurmountable as Shawnee State held Life without a field goal over the final 7:21 of the second quarter — going on a 17-0 run during the middle of the Running Eagles’ field goal drought — to take a 47-21 halftime advantage. Poe ultimately finished with a game-high 20 points in just 11 minutes of playing time.
“In the first quarter, it was just singular mistakes on plays, such as being a step late here, not getting out and rotating, moving that guard on a screen or a drive, or being out of position on defense,” Nickel said. “That’s what bit us, and we really tightened things up in the second and third quarters, so I’m pleased with what we were able to do and the body of work that we put together over those first three quarters.”
However, even with Shawnee State’s body of work on the defensive end of the floor, it certainly didn’t hurt to see Ashton Lovely doing usual Ashton Lovely things in the second half of play. After getting a pair of free throws from Madison Ridout to start the second half, Lovely proceeded to go absolutely off as the junior canned not one, not two, not even three, but four straight three-pointers — all from at least three feet behind the three-point line — as Shawnee State quickly expanded its lead to a massive 63-21 gap.
“We got out on the break and got some things going,” Nickel said. “In the second quarter, we were able to score some inside. We just had good balance. We found the open person and we were able to make some shots that way. I thought that our defense was really, really good in the second and third quarter.”
Lovely, who put together six rebounds, five points, and five assists to no turnovers in the first half, connected on five of her eight field goal attempts in the second half — including four of five three-point attempts during the final half — en route to obtaining 19 points on just 12 shots.
“Ashton’s a really special player,” Nickel said. “She played pretty well on both ends. As far as those four straight threes are concerned, she’s capable. She’s a good shooter. She’s not a streaky shooter, but she got really hot tonight, and she’s capable of doing that. Most of those threes were pretty deep when she hit them, too. She’s got terrific range and she’s a very good shooter and passer.”
Behind Lovely’s output and more outstanding defensive play, Shawnee State ultimately extended its lead to as much as 76-29 as the Bears ultimately held Life without a field goal for over 13 minutes of playing time. Madison Ridout’s 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, along with Hannah Miller’s 15 points, five assists, and three steals and Bailey Cummins’ 14 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, were also crucial in the final result.
“We got great guard play,” Nickel said. “We got great guard production out of Madison, who defended multiple positions all night long. She was just really balanced overall in her play. She always is. Hannah had a really good game on both ends of the floor, and Bailey distributed the ball, rebounded the ball, and took very good shots, as always.”
With the victory, Shawnee State improved to 19-3 while upping its MSC mark to a perfect 6-0. The Bears will take on Cumberlands (Ky.) on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
“Cumberlands is a good team,” Nickel said. “Cheyenne Madden has been the Mid-South Conference Player of the Week three times this year, and she’s a very good post presence for us, so she poses a challenge. They’ve had a great program down there for a very long time, and we’re going to have to play well here Saturday to get a win.”