SSU men push No. 2 Georgetown to brink, fall in thriller

The Shawnee State men’s basketball program’s first two matchups against No. 2 Georgetown lived up to the hype in every way imaginable.

So it only figured that the third contest between the two teams would be just as good — if not better than — the first two.

After taking a 30-21 first-half lead, Georgetown cut Shawnee State’s lead to a scant 32-31 margin at halftime, then ultimately rallied to collect a 51-41 lead with 9:14 to play in the game.

Despite facing its largest deficit of the game, Shawnee State rallied back with an 11-0 run to take a 52-51 lead with 5:09 to play in Sunday’s Mid-South Conference Quarterfinal, but couldn’t claim victory as 45 combined points from Jake Ohmer and Eljay Cowherd proved to be just too much, with a last-second buzzer-beating three-point attempt by Kyree Elder falling off the mark in a 59-58 loss for SSU.

Even with the loss, Shawnee State (21-11) accumulated plenty of positives, holding Georgetown to just 27.8 percent shooting and keeping Rade Kukobat, Nico Clareth, Mid-South Conference Player of the Year Chris Coffey, and First-Team All-MSC honoree Jacob Conway off of the scoreboard as the quartet combined for NINE points between them.

Onu dominates first half

In the opening half of competition, there wasn’t a better player on the floor than EJ Onu. The junior absolutely dominated the interior on both ends of the court en route to allowing Shawnee State to put together as much as a nine-point lead (30-21) in the opening half of competition.

Onu, who posted 14 of his 18 points and six of his eight rebounds in the opening half of competition, added in four blocks and two posterizations of defenders on dunks in the opening 20 minutes of action. The 6-11 junior continued to back up his Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year honor at every stop as the Cleveland, Ohio native posted 18 points, nine points, eight rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes while shooting 7-of-15 from the field.

Balance critical for Bears once more

For the second game running, SSU showed off a balanced attack at the Mid-South Conference Tournament. In addition to Onu and Elder (17 points, 14 rebounds), Jakiel Wells, Justin Johnson, and Dakota Prichard each finished with at least six points each. All three played critical roles at different times, especially Prichard, who played 22 huge minutes off of the bench and forced Clareth into a 1-of-10 shooting stroke from the field.

NAIA Tournament Resume

Heading into Wednesday’s NAIA Division I Selection Show — which begins at 8 p.m. ET — Shawnee State has built up an outstanding resume for inclusion in the 2020 NAIA Division I Tournament.

Shawnee State’s 21 wins are tied for second-most in school history, with only the 1988-89 team matching that win total and the 2001-02 team exceeding that mark. The Bears collected a winning record in conference play for the first time since the 2012-13 season, advanced to the conference semifinals for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign, and put two players (Elder, Onu) on the first team All-MSC list, the first time that’s been done in conference since the 2004-05 season. SSU defeated five teams that were either ranked or receiving votes at the time the Bears played the opposition.

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