For the first time since Feb. 19, 2013, the men’s basketball program at Shawnee State finds itself with a ranked designation beside its name as the Bears, behind a 7-2 start that matched the 1995-96 program for the second-best in school history, claimed six points and were one of 10 NAIA teams outside the NAIA Top 25 to receive votes as a result.
Shawnee State, who sits as the equivalent to the 35th-ranked team in the nation with their six votes, has won six of its nine contests by double-digits during the 2019-20 season. The Bears’ only losses were to No. 19-ranked Stillman (Ala.) by a 76-72 margin — a game that Shawnee State had tied with 90 seconds to play — and No. 21 Dalton State (Ga.) — where the Bears played without leading scorer Kyree Elder for the entire second half following an injury in a 74-63 loss. The Bears also put together an excellent first-half effort against Miami (Ohio) in an exhibition matchup between the two, as SSU tied the RedHawks at 38-all after a half of play before dropping the affair by a respectable 82-68 gap.
SSU started its 2019-20 season by taking home resounding victories in its opening pair of affairs against Puerto Rico-Bayamon (96-56) and Maine-Fort Kent (92-54) by a combined 78 points, with the Bears placing five players in double-figures in both contests during the Virgin Islands Classic on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19.
After a week away from competition, Shawnee State continued its red-hot start by drubbing Wright State-Lake (139-75) in a contest where the Bears scored the second-most points in team history while putting six players in double-figures on Oct. 30, then, over the same weekend, added in a pair of victories over River States Conference competitors Midway (83-57) and West Virginia Tech (80-61) to sweep their contests in the Sean Elliott Classic sponsored by Jimmy John’s.
Shawnee State then added its latest victories in inspired performances against Huntington (Ind.) and Grace (Ind.) in the Cancer Care Classic on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, with the Bears utilizing 11 consecutive points from Elder to rally from a four-point deficit to win by a 54-50 count, in large part due to Elder’s game-winning layup with 18 seconds to go. SSU then added a 69-52 victory over host Grace, with Elder and Justin Johnson obtaining Cancer Care Classic All-Tournament honors as a result.
For the season, Elder leads the unit with 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest on 47.2 percent shooting while Johnson has added 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game on 60.8 percent shooting for Shawnee State. EJ Onu, who has posted 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.1 blocks, joins the aforementioned pair in double-figures.
In addition to the trio, Tim Biakapia (9.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 42.9 percent shooting, 36.4 percent three-point shooting), Selby Hind-Wills (7.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 50 percent shooting), Desmond Crosby, Jr. (6.7 points), D’Andre Price (6.1 points), Jakiel Wells (4.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals), and Kobie Johnson, Dakota Prichard, Bailey Davis, and Steven Zimmerman have all contributed to the success of the 2019-20 unit through nine affairs.
Overall, the Mid-South Conference put six teams inside the NAIA Top 25 Poll, with Georgetown (Ky.)’s 219 points and perfect 8-0 record putting them at the top of the poll. Pikeville, who collected 195 points, sits in fifth with its own unblemished mark of 10-0, while Life (Ga.) and Thomas More, who are 18th and 23rd, moved into the NAIA Top 25 behind perfect 8-0 marks of their own after starting the season outside the receiving votes portion of the poll entirely. Lindsey Wilson’s 22 points and SSU’s six round out the Mid-South teams represented in the poll.
The men’s basketball program will be back in action on Thursday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 7 when DeLano Thomas’ club faces Cumberland (Tenn.) at 8 p.m. and Life (Ga.) at 4 p.m., respectively, on the back end of women’s and men’s doubleheaders across both days of action. The bouts will begin Mid-South Conference competition for the men and women.
For the complete NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Poll, click here.
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