Elder posts 28 as No. 22 Bears run past Phoenix

The men’s basketball program at Shawnee State started its contest against Cumberland (Tenn.) on a 10-0 run and never looked back, putting four players in double-figures and obtaining a game-high 28 points from Kyree Elder in the Bears’ 83-55 victory over the Phoenix on Saturday evening in a Mid-South Conference contest that was held in Lebanon, Tenn.

Shawnee State, who improved to 19-9 overall and 8-6 in the Mid-South Conference with the victory, dominated the contest from start to finish by shooting 31-of-64 from the field (48 percent) while posting 12 assists on their 31 made attempts and committing only 10 turnovers on the offensive end of the floor.

Defensively, the Bears held the Phoenix to just 20-of-53 shooting from the floor (38 percent), a 21 percent mark from beyond the arc, and outrebounded Cumberland by a plus-17 margin (44-27) in their second consecutive blowout victory.

From the outset, Shawnee State showcased its offensive efficiency by getting their starting bigs, Justin Johnson and EJ Onu, optimal touches. The pair rewarded the Bears by utilizing the size advantage that SSU had over the Phoenix, with the duo scoring each of Shawnee State’s first 12 points.

On the opposite end of the floor, the Bears put together a defensive clinic, with Shawnee State holding Cumberland scoreless over the game’s first 5:27 and keeping the Phoenix off of the field goal column over the first 6:10 of the contest en route to the Bears taking a 12-1 advantage. Onu, once again, was huge in that aspect, ultimately collecting six blocks at the end of the first 20 minutes by himself.

Johnson’s and Onu’s early dominance inside allowed the Bears to work inside-out as the pair obtained increased attention due to their productivity, and as a result, Shawnee State’s guards and wings began to heat up. In three consecutive possessions, Jakiel Wells, Tim Biakapia, and Elder converted on shot attempts to push the Bears’ lead to a 20-6 margin with 11:44 to play in the opening half.

Cumberland later cut that advantage to a 26-17 edge with 6:59 to play in the first 20 minutes of action, but at that juncture, Elder and Biakapia heated up by combining for 10 points in a 12-2 Shawnee State run that put the Bears up by a half-high 19, 38-19, with 2:06 to play before SSU ultimately walked into the locker room ahead by a 38-21 edge at the halftime break.

In the second half, Elder took over.

Already off to an outstanding performance, the senior made it official by scoring 18 of his game-high 28 points in the second half to put on a clinic. Elder, who had family in attendance from just over 30 miles away in nearby Nashville, knocked down four of his five three-point attempts in the second half to cap off an outing where the 6-5 wing went 12-of-20 from the floor and led SSU with four assists as the Bears cruised to the 28-point victory.

In addition to his 28 points, Elder also led SSU with four assists and didn’t turn the basketball over once in the victory. Biakapia (14 points, eight rebounds, 5-of-7 shooting), Onu (13 points, seven rebounds, seven blocks) and Johnson (12 points) joined their fellow upperclassman in double-figures.

With the victory, No. 22 Shawnee State will turn its attention to its final pair of conference matchups, which will be held at Waller Gymnasium in Portsmouth. The first of those matchups will be a Thursday evening home affair against No. 13 Cumberlands, Ky., which will commence at 8 p.m.

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