PORTSMOUTH – What more can you ask for than two near double digit wins to start conference play on your home court?
That’s exactly what the Shawnee State University women’s and men’s team did in wins over the University of Pikeville Saturday afternoon on their home court, doing so in rather impressive fashion.
SSU 81, UPIKE 58 (Women’s)
Bailey Cummins transition layup that gave the junior guard her 1,000th career point in just 2.5 years, which also coincidentally gave the Bears an early 7-0 in the first quarter, really set the tone for how well the SSU women would play for the rest of the first half.
“Bailey’s a really good point guard,” said SSU head coach Jeff Nickel following his team’s win Saturday afternoon. “She’s been a really good floor leader for us, gets her teammates good shots and that was evident again today. I’m just really happy for her.”
“It means everything to me, I can’t really explain the feeling,” said the junior guard when asked about what it means to become the 33rd player in program history to reach the 1,000 point mark. “Having all of my friends and family here, knowing it was going to happen today, and being able to do it in front of my teammates, I wouldn’t be able to have done without them.”
The Bears continued their high level of play through the rest of the first quarter, holding onto a 24-7 lead over UPike by quarter’s end. That excellent play sparked by Cummins game high 12 points, as well as Hannah Miller’s 10 helped the Bears extend their lead to 47-19 at the halftime break.
“As a team, I thought we played really, really hard,” said Nickel. “I thought we did a great job executing our gameplan, especially in the first half. Defensively, we had great intensity with good pressure on and off the ball, really happy with our effort.”
Maybe the biggest reason for that happiness from Nickel on the defensive end was guard Shania Massie. The senior was a stat sheet stuffer in the Bears home win, amassing 11 points, 4 steals, 4 assists, and six rebounds, three of which were offensive.
“Sometimes you call those people unsung heroes,” said Nickel, “She was just everywhere. Four steals, and most of those were just good positioning by her. She didn’t have to reach even, they would just throw the ball across and she was able to intercept it. Good pressure off the ball and putting herself in good position to intercept those passes.”
UPike would go on to outscore SSU in the second half 39-34, but the damage they sustained from the first half was too severe to matter in the end as the Bears held on to win 81-58.
SSU will next get ready for their second conference game of the season against the University of the Cumberlands on Thursday, and then against Life University on Saturday.
“Cumberland’s got a new coaching staff this year so they’re a little bit different,” said Nickel, “They’ll be coming into this game 12-4. Life might be the most athletic team in our league, lot of ball pressure. Their third year as a program, coming into our game at 11-2. I think it’s going to be a much different Life team than what we’ve played in the past. It’s going to be a challenge for us, our first time have back to back home games in the league, just have to get ready for two league games and put yourself in a position to win.”
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) January 5, 2019
SSU: 24-23-13-21 – 81
UPike: 7-12-19-20 – 58
SSU: 30/62 FG, 8/24 3PT (Lovely 3), 13/20 FT, 36 rebounds (12 offensive), 16 assists, 10 turnovers. Scoring: Lovely 19, Miller 16, Cummins 14, Massie 11, Smith 9, Zuchowski 9, Si. King 3
UPike: 22/59 FG, 1/12 3PT, 13/20 FT.
SSU 95, UPIKE 86 (Men’s)
Scoring 58 points in a second half when you trail by just three at halftime is a recipe for a victory in most scenarios.
By doing just that when they trailed UPike 40-37 at the half, Shawnee State positioned themselves to win in a big way, earning their first win over their Mid-South foe in their last 16 meetings with the perineal NAIA powerhouse.
Most people would see that as a wake up call for the rest of their conference when they were picked to finish last in the preseason conference coaches’ poll. Not SSU head coach Delano Thomas; his team still has much more to prove.
“It’s just a win,” said Thomas, “You can’t win just one game in this league and hope for people to pat you on the back or anything like that. You have to be consistent in this league. That’s when people notice, ‘They’re really here, they’re trying and they’re playing hard’. That’s when it really begins to resonate.”
SSU came out ready to play in their first conference game, and did so at an extremely high level, knocking off the 16th ranked UPike Bears with excellent guard play, and a balanced scoring attack.
Gio Jackson, transfer from Everett CC in Washinton, had an incredible game after sitting out the first half of the season. The junior transfer finished Saturday’s contest with a team highs in points, rebounds, and assists: 25 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
“It felt good this being only my second game back,” said Jackson following his team’s win on Saturday. “It feels good being out here with my team. We’re on a mission, that’s what we came here to do.”
“It’s amazing for me, playing with Gio,” said junior guard Tamal Watkins who finished with 17 points, “It’s like having another me out there. I think he’s a little more athletic than me, he’s the one the rebounds a lot and he can push the pace a lot just. Playing alongside me, I’m not sure I see a whole lot of back courts that can stop the two of us.”
Watkins said prior to the season the fact that he and his team were finished to pick last in the Mid-South conference was a big motivation for himself to work hard and to prove any doubters wrong.
“I feel like really sets the tone,” said Watkins, “It lets teams know that this isn’t the same Shawnee as last year or two years ago. We really put in a lot of work to get to this point, and this win shows us that what we’ve been doing has paid off for us. We just have to keep it going and be consistent.”
The highlight of SSU’s impressive upset win over UPike was their 39 points they were able to score in the first twelve minutes of the second half, even after trailing UPike 53-43 in the early stages of the final half of play.
To keep things this momentum from a big home win going through the rest of conference play, Thomas wants to keep his team to enjoy this moment, while also get prepared for their upcoming tough schedule.
“In the Mid-South, you have to take care of home,” said Thomas. “It really doesn’t get started until you start winning on the road. We did what we were supposed to do by taking care of home. Now we just have to enjoy this moment and get ready to prepare for Central State on Monday.”
SSU will tip off with Central State University at 7:30 p.m. on Monday as they attempt to pick up their ninth win of the young season.
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) January 5, 2019
SSU: 37-58 – 95
UPike: 40-46 – 86
SSU: 33/52 FG, 7/13 3PT (Watkins 3), 13/22 FT, 27 rebounds (7 offensive), 18 assists, 15 turnovers. Scoring: Jackson 25, Watkins 17, Johnson 17, Biakapia 13, Onu 12, Hind-Wills 8, Byrd 3
UPike: 35/74 FG, 7/18 3PT, 9/14 FT.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT