PORTSMOUTH — Over the course of his four-year head coaching tenure, and even during his time as an assistant under SSU Athletic Director Jeff Hamilton, DeLano Thomas has spearheaded excellent defensive efforts as a coach.
Thursday evening’s effort, however, ranks right up there among the all-time great defensive performances in Shawnee State basketball history — and fittingly, it was E.J. Onu’s all-time great individual performance that led the charge.
The 2019-20 first-team all-MSC, MSC Defensive Player of the Year and NAIA Honorable Mention All-American’s career-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting was only topped by his career-high 13 blocks — with the senior beating his own single-game school record by two — and his 10 rebounds.
Onu’s first-ever triple-double led a dominating effort in Shawnee State’s 83-54 wire-to-wire victory over previously-unbeaten Martin Methodist at Waller Gymnasium.
In setting a commanding tone throughout the 40-minute affair, Shawnee State (6-2, 3-1 MSC), which held Lindsey Wilson to 0-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc last Saturday, held Martin Methodist to a putrid 2-of-33 mark from behind the line — as the Bears’ aggressive closeouts and gap discipline kept the RedHawks (5-1, 2-1 MSC) off-balance throughout the game.
Between SSU’s perimeter aggressiveness and Onu shutting down the paint with his otherworldly defensive efforts, the Bears held Martin Methodist to just 19-of-73 shooting (26-percent) for the contest, all while maintaining excellent offensive efficiency.
Shawnee State’s unselfishness on the offensive end led to the Bears shooting 32-of-64 (50-percent) and 10-of-25 (40-percent) from beyond the arc, thanks to its 18 assists on the 32 made shots.
Onu puts together
performance for ages
Not to be denied in any way imaginable, Onu imposed his will on the affair at every stop.
The 6-11 center scored 14 of his 25 points in the second half, blocked three of his 13 shots on one possession during the middle portion of the game, and even banked in a three-pointer off of a Tre Beard pass with 4:41 to go in the opening half — one of his two treys on the evening.
The Richmond Heights High School graduate and Cleveland native broke his own school record of 11 blocks against Cumberland (Tenn.) in January 2018 — by notching a block on Adarion Hudson with 3:15 to play to seal a new standard and continue etching his name all across the record books.
With his 25 points, Onu now has 1,153 points for his Shawnee State career — to go along with 661 rebounds and 418 blocks.
He sits just 22 points back of 2013 Shawnee State alum Tyler Boyles for 10th-place in all-time scoring, and is now sixth all-time in career rebounds by passing 2014 Shawnee State alum Andrew Devlin for that position.
For the 2020-21 season, Onu is now averaging 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.9 blocks with 64-percent shooting from the field and 47.6-percent shooting from three-point range.
Jones continues strong
campaign in own right
Onu, however, was far from the only individual to stand out.
Senior wing James Jones put together his fourth performance of 20 or more points with a 23-point barrage against Martin Methodist, going a strong 9-of-18 from the field.
Jones, who also went 3-of-4 from the free-throw stripe like Onu, scored a team-high 15 points in the opening half of action on various mid-range pull-ups and slashes to the rim.
The two-time Mid-South Conference Player of the Week still hasn’t scored less than double figures in any of his first eight contests with the Bears, has posted at least six or more rebounds in seven of his first eight games — and is averaging 20 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with 48.1-percent shooting through the eight-game set.
Defensive play rising
unit to new level
In addition to holding Lindsey Wilson and Martin Methodist to an incredible 2-of-56 from long range over the past two games, Shawnee State’s commitment on both ends of the floor has the Bears firing on all cylinders.
Jakiel Wells and Beard combined for 15 points and eight assists on 6-of-10 shooting — all while committing just four turnovers between them and forcing four steals.
Issac Abergut had an off-night from a shooting standpoint, but his three steals led the team.
Shawn Paris Jr. spaced the floor effectively while knocking down a pair of threes in 26 minutes, and Donoven Carlisle (eight points and four rebounds) and Kobie Johnson played excellent defense either in the low post in Carlisle’s case — or on the ball in Johnson’s case.
Shawnee State follows up its big victory over a strong Martin Methodist team with another stout opponent in Mount Vernon Nazarene — on Friday (Dec. 18) at 7 p.m. in Waller Gymnasium.
The Cougars’ leading scorer — Jevon Knox — is averaging 23 points per game and has 1,766 career points on his line, while Onu’s 4.9 blocks leads all of NAIA Division I in what will be a significant battle for both programs.
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club or for sponsorship of specific SSU players or events, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club and https://givetossu.com/sponsorthebears.