SSU holds off Lancers

The men’s basketball program at Shawnee State used a 28-of-56 mark from the field (50 percent), obtained 36 points and 13 rebounds combined from Kyree Elder and Justin Johnson, and used a 33-14 run between the first and second halves of competition against Grace (Ind.) to collect its second straight victory in as many days as the Bears posted a 69-52 victory over the Lancers on the final day of the Cancer Care Classic in Winona Lake, Ind.

Shawnee State, who shot 15-for-29 from the field (51.7 percent) in the first half and 13-for-27 (48.1 percent) in the second half of competition en route to its 50 percent mark from the floor, accomplished that shooting mark while putting together an outstanding defensive effort for the second night in a row by holding Grace to a 20-for-63 shooting mark from the field in the second half (31.7 percent). The Bears also outrebounded the Lancers by a massive 46-27 margin and held Grace to under 30 points in both halves of competition — including just 24 points total in the second half of play — en route to the victory.

Throughout much of the first half of action, both teams, over the first 14 minutes of play, went back and forth on the point as the Bears and Lancers tied or traded the lead nine different times, with Hank Smith’s three-point field goal tying the score one final time at 25 apiece with 6:50 to play in the opening half. Elder and Johnson, who combined to score 11 of Shawnee State’s first 16 points, kept the Bears right in the fight throughout.

Shawnee State, however, changed the complexion of the contest for good with its work on both ends of the floor from there on in.

During a three-minute portion of the opening half, the Bears scored eight consecutive points down on the low block as Johnson and Onu used crafty footwork and their 6-10 and 6-11 frames to finish over the top of the Grace frontline, which didn’t have a player above 6-8, en route to building the Shawnee State advantage.

Their play, in addition to the excellent defensive energy that the Bears played with — at one point forcing three consecutive offensive fouls due to the play of Selby Hind-Wills off of the bench among others. Jakiel Wells also collected two steals to lead the team statistically, Johnson’s length at the top of Shawnee State’s matchup zone defense, and five straight points from Elder allowed SSU to build a 38-28 advantage at the halftime break.

Throughout the first four minutes of the second half of competition, Shawnee State kept its lead at a 10 to 12 point cushion before busting the gap open for good. Elder, a marksman who can pull from any spot on the floor, knocked down a three-pointer with 15:21 to go in the second half, and Johnson scored four points down low over a two-minute span to allow the Bears to take a 53-39 advantage.

The game, however, was put out of reach when Onu, who knocked down a jumper from three-point range from straightaway, made the contest a 56-39 lead in favor of SSU. A defensive foul, which was called behind the three-pointer, allowed the Bears to get the ball back, and on the ensuing sideout, Desmond Crosby, Jr. caught the ball, moved to the left side of the floor, and finished at the rim with a layup to give Shawnee State a 58-39 lead with 9:19 to play.

Following that 33-14 run, Grace attempted to cut the lead. A quick 5-0 run by the Lancers allowed Grace to come within 58-44, but Shawnee State didn’t allow the Lancers to seriously contest the point as SSU officially put the game out of reach with an 11-4 spurt that was capped off by a Tim Biakapia steal and dunk with 2:58 to go en route to putting together a game-high 69-48 lead before subbing freely after the breakway finish.

For the contest, Elder’s 18 points, seven rebounds, and two assists on 7-for-14 shooting, along with Johnson’s 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists on 8-for-12 shooting, led the way. Onu (10 points, seven rebounds, three blocks), Biakapia (eight points, five rebounds, steal on 3-for-3 shooting), and Hind-Wills (six points, four rebounds, steal) were among the additional contributors for the Bears, who put eight players in the scoring column while not allowing a single Grace player to score more than 10 points for the affair.

With the victory, Shawnee State has posted a 7-2 start to the 2019-20 season — the best start to a season for the Bears during the current decade. It’s the first 7-2 start for SSU since the 2002-03 season.

Shawnee State will have an 18-day break before getting back to action with two home bouts at Waller Gymnasium — which will be the program’s Mid-South Conference openers against Cumberland (Tenn.) on Thursday, Dec. 5 and Life (Ga.) on Saturday, Dec. 7. Both contests start at 8 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively, and are part of Mid-South Conference doubleheader action with the women’s basketball program playing prior to the men on both dates.

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