In an outstanding battle of wills, the men’s basketball program at Shawnee State showed that it was more than up to the task against Miami (Ohio) as the Bears, trailing by as much as a 25-10 margin with 11:49 to play in the opening half of competition, worked its way back into the contest via outstanding hustle and grit.
SSU, who took two separate leads (34-33 and 36-34) late in the opening half of action before setting for a 38-all tie at the halftime break, ultimately fell to the RedHawks by an 82-68 tally on Monday evening in an exhibition matchup against the NCAA Division I program, but put four players in double-figures, got a game-high 15 points from Kyree Elder, a 14-point, 11-rebound, seven-block outing from EJ Onu, and most importantly, a promising effort across the board from a group that is still developing as a unit.
After looking on as Miami went on a 15-3 run to start the game behind the efforts of Dalonte Brown and Isaiah Coleman-Lands, Shawnee State was forced to work from behind as the RedHawks made five of their first six field goal attempts, and eight of their first 15 attempts from the field in all en route to ultimately putting SSU behind by a 25-10 margin.
With the Bears behind by that count, however, Shawnee State dug deep. Despite foul trouble to two of its starters in Justin Johnson and Desmond Crosby, Jr., Elder, Onu, and Jakiel Wells — the remaining trio of starters — along with Kobie Johnson, Selby Hind-Wills, and Tim Biakapia, who came off of the bench to supply excellent minutes and hustle plays at key moments, rallied in adversity.
Wells, who came in for Crosby, Jr. after the latter obtained his third foul with 11:29 to play in the half, knocked down a floater in the middle of the lane, then stole a pass and finished smoothly to help cut the lead to 25-14 with 9:55 to go. Blocks by Biakapia and Onu, along with a steal by Hind-Wills, led to back-to-back buckets from Johnson — Shawnee State’s version of the microwave — to cut the lead down to single-digits at 25-18 with nine minutes to play.
When Miami answered back with a pair of Precious Ayah free throws and a trey from Isaiah Coleman-Lands, Elder teamed with Biakapia to take over the scoring load. In fact, the duo combined for 14 points alone over a 5:05 stretch as the duo combined for four treys and a two-point bucket during that span.
Elder, who hit three of those four treys, pulled up and hit a deep trey from the right wing to give Shawnee State arguably its most exciting basket of all of the ones hit in the opening half as SSU used a lightning-fast 23-8 push en route to taking its first lead of the game, 34-33, with 2:39 to play. Javin Etzler responded with a trey to put Miami back ahead by two points, but Wells answered back with two drives into the middle of the lane to put SSU back in front by a 38-36 margin before Nike Sibande’s layup with 33 seconds left tied the score at 38 heading into the halftime break.
In the second half of competition, Miami opened the final 20 minutes of action by scoring the final stanza’s first five points to take the lead, but again, Shawnee State answered back as Onu nailed a trey from the left corner while Elder ran off of an effective screen en route to nailing a jumper from the left elbow to tie the score at 43 apiece. At that point, however, the Bears ran out of juice, and the RedHawks, who ran 10 guys in-and-out in a platoon system throughout the exhibition matchup, used their fresh legs to build the lead to 17, 61-44, as an 18-1 run over a 7:10 stretch essentially decided the outcome of the contest.
Despite the 82-68 loss, the Bears obtained several impressive efforts as Elder’s 15 points came from the senior knocking down four of his eight attempts from three-point range while going 5-of-13 from the floor and collecting six rebounds en route to another quality effort, while Onu dominated defensively by posting his outstanding seven-block total.
Biakapia, who went 5-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-4 each from three-point range and the charity stripe, added in 14 points while posting three rebounds and two blocks in an efficient effort, with Johnson (5-of-9 shooting overall, 2-of-5 from deep) and Wells (nine points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block, and 4-of-7 from the field) adding in efficient outings of their own in the contest. Hind-Wills’ plus-minus of seven in 27 minutes of game action led SSU as the 6-6 forward finalized the Bears’ main efforts with his hustle and energy on both ends of the floor.
The men’s basketball program at Shawnee State will be back in regular season action against No. 14 Stillman (Ala.) and Dalton State (Ga.) on Friday and Saturday in the Mid-South Conference/Southern States Athletic Conference Challenge that will be held in Campbellsville (Ky.). The Bears play Stillman at 5 p.m. on Friday and Dalton State at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears.