SSU men win at UPike for 5th straight

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The Shawnee State men’s basketball team continued its strong play through the first contest of the 2021 portion of its schedule on Saturday evening at the University of Pikeville.

By shooting a blistering 56-percent from the field, putting four players (James Jones, E.J. Onu, Isaac Abergut and Amier Gilmore) in double figures and never trailing throughout the 40-minute affair, the visiting Bears captured a 91-79 triumph over Pikeville in a Mid-South Conference matchup.

In the victory, Shawnee State (9-2, 5-1 MSC) outrebounded Pikeville by a 39-34 margin, held UPike (4-5, 2-4 MSC) to 41.1 percent shooting — more than nine-percent below its season shooting percentage coming in — and held Korbin Spencer, Pikeville’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game coming in, to six points and five turnovers.

SSU also had seven players score at least five points or more.

Jones, Onu continue

outstanding play

Not to be denied a conference road win, James and Onu came up large at every pass for Shawnee State once more.

The star duo, who each scored in double figures for the 11th consecutive game to start the season, posted outings with more than 20-plus points.

Jones, Shawnee State’s leader in points and assists per game at 20.7 and 3.6 coming in respectively, notched 15 points in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting to go along with three rebounds and two assists, helping SSU claim a 38-35 halftime advantage.

The 6-4 senior wing wound up with a 26-point, five-assist, four-rebound statline — all while not turning the basketball over a single time.

His sixth 20-point outing in 11 games now has Jones sitting at 21.2 points per outing, with the senior also owning 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists on his line.

As for Onu, the senior big man came up large in the second half, posting 13 points and five rebounds over the final 20 minutes.

In doing so, the 6-11 senior, 2020 MSC first-team honoree and 2020 NAIA Honorable Mention All-American went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field — en route to a 9-of-13 outing over the course of the evening.

In addition to enjoying his third consecutive victory over UPike in just a year’s time, Onu is now averaging 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds on 63-percent shooting from the field and 45-percent from three-point range.

Abergut, Gilmore showing

penchant for critical plays

While Jones and Onu have continued to come up big time after time, Abergut and Gilmore continue to make winning plays in their own roles.

Abergut, who scored eight of his 13 points in the second half, made arguably the biggest shot of the game.

With Pikeville on a 13-3 run and SSU needing a basket to squelch the spurt, the junior from Melbourne, Australia took a pass from Jones and nailed a left wing trey with 3:08 remaining.

That three not only gave SSU breathing room, but sparked a 10-0 Shawnee State run over the next 2:56 that closed the game out for good.

Abergut also used his long 6-7, 195-pound frame to disrupt Pikeville’s timing, notching a team-high six steals.

As for Gilmore, the 6-6 forward continued to use strength and pure hustle to excel in his own role.

Having only two points and two rebounds at halftime, the Eastpointe, Mich. native posted eight points and six rebounds in the second half on 4-of-5 shooting to compliment Onu’s abilities in a strong manner down low.

Winning basketball

up and down lineup

Behind the four double-figure scorers, Latavious Mitchell, Jakiel Wells, Dakota Prichard and Miles Thomas all proved to be critical in one form or another.

Wells, who played over 27-and-a-half minutes, made both of his field goal attempts and posted six points and three rebounds while consistently getting SSU into an offense — as evidenced by just two turnovers.

Mitchell, who posted five points and four rebounds, again impressed with his energy on both ends — including another fantastic putback jam — while Prichard and Thomas were effective secondary ballhandlers and defenders, both on and off the ball, at different points.

Next Up

The win marks the second consecutive season that Shawnee State has won at least five games in a row — another promising trend in SSU’s rise to the top of the conference standings.

With an .833 win percentage in conference currently, DeLano Thomas’ group has the best record in Mid-South Conference play of any team which has played five or more conference games.

Only Freed-Hardeman, which is 2-0 in MSC action this season, has a better mark of the 11 remaining competitors inside conference competition.

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