Bears edged at buzzer by No. 2 Wildcats

The men’s basketball program at Shawnee State overcame two deficits midway through the first and second halves of competition to take a 40-36 first half lead against Indiana Wesleyan and tie the score heading into the game’s final minute of action, but a three-point buzzer-beater by the Wildcats’ Kyle Mangus forced the Bears to settle for a 82-79 loss on Saturday afternoon at the First Bank Classic in Richmond, Ind.

For the contest, Shawnee State outshot the highly-proficient Indiana Wesleyan offense by garnering a 47.5 percent shooting mark from the field (29-of-61) compared to the Wildcats’ 46.2 percent mark from the field (30-of-65), outrebounded IWU by a massive 44-27 margin, and blocked nine shots to Indiana Wesleyan’s four in the contest. However, the Bears posted just 12 assists and committed 21 turnovers, while the Wildcats obtained 20 assists to just 15 turnovers over the 40-minute bout.

Over the opening half of play, Indiana Wesleyan’s three-point shooting proved to be the story during the first 10 minutes of action. Spencer Piercefield and Cannen Coffey knocked in six three-pointers over the contest’s first 12 minutes of action to help put the Wildcats up by a 24-18 count — its largest lead of the opening half.

However, by chasing the pair off of the three-point line, Shawnee State was able to rally back into the fray, and the Bears worked their way back into contention by working from the inside out in an effective manner.

Led by an outstanding two-way performance from EJ Onu, who knocked in 11 points and grabbed four rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting (including 3-of-5 from long distance) while holding Seth Maxwell to just eight points on 12 shot attempts in the opening half, the Bears, who cut Indiana Wesleyan’s lead to a 31-28 margin, went on a 10-0 run.

Seven different Shawnee State players ended up scoring in the opening half of competition, with Onu, along with seven points apiece from Kyree Elder and Justin Johnson and a six-point, four-assist, four-rebound total from Desmond Crosby, Jr. allowing Shawnee State to take a 40-36 halftime lead. Indiana Wesleyan’s Kyle Mangus was also held to just four points on seven shots in the opening half as the Bears took the four-point advantage into the locker room.

However, after holding Mangus and Maxwell to 12 points combined in the opening half, SSU couldn’t keep the pair contained in the second half of competition.

Up by as many as eight (44-36) to begin the second half of competition, Indiana Wesleyan rallied back into the game for good with a 17-4 spurt with Mangus and Maxwell scoring each of the 17 points to give Indiana Wesleyan a 53-48 lead. Maxwell, who scored the final basket during the run, then scored 15 of the Wildcats’ next 20 points on his own to push the Wildcats’ lead to a game-high nine, 73-64, with 6:43 to play.

Much like IWU, however, SSU’s best and brightest stepped up to keep the contest close. Down by its largest margin of the contest, Elder and Johnson scored 13 consecutive Shawnee State points, with a Johnson bucket in the low post with 1:12 to play cutting the Indiana Wesleyan lead to 79-77 and a pair of free throws from the senior allowing the Bears to tie the game with 54 seconds to go as SSU tied the game at 79-all. A defensive stop that gave the Bears a chance to take the lead, however, was nullified by a turnover, which gave Mangus the opportunity he needed to can the game-winning jumper at the horn.

Elder, who scored 19 of his team-high 26 points in the second half, added in three rebounds to lead the Bears offensively while Johnson’s 19 points and eight boards, along with Onu’s 15 points, eight blocks, and seven collections, also were vital in Shawnee State’s contention through the game. Maxwell finished with a game-high 28 points while Mangus added in 25 for Indiana Wesleyan.

With the loss, the Bears fell to 11-4 overall. Shawnee State will look to bounce back when the calendar turns to 2020, as the Bears travel to Thomas More to face the Saints as part of Mid-South Conference doubleheader action on Saturday, Jan. 4. Game time is set for 4 p.m.

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