PORTSMOUTH — Shawnee State senior big man E.J. Onu — and the preceding setup by senior James Jones — provided the SSU men’s basketball program with a moment on Thursday night it’s not likely to soon forget.
Not having connected on any of his long-range attempts up to the final 10 seconds of their home game versus No. 6 Georgetown College (Ky.), Onu stepped up and hit the game’s biggest shot — a three assisted by Jones to give the Bears a 74-73 lead with 1.5 seconds to play.
The go-ahead make was the last of 11 lead changes in a game in which SSU trailed by as many as 12 with less than five minutes to play in the first half.
The final buzzer sounded moments later, giving the Bears their first win over Georgetown since Feb. 17, 2018 in head coach Delano Thomas’ first season.
“E.J. was huge in that moment. He’ll tell you he didn’t have his best game — was 0-of-5 from three coming to that point,” Thomas said, after the game. “Just to have the confidence to hit that shot. And even bigger for James (Jones) to be able to drive, have everyone collapse to him and have enough trust in his teammate to make that pass — that was huge.”
The 74-73 victory continues SSU on its pace for a remarkable season — if it holds to form.
In 13 games to start the 2020-21 campaign, the Bears have posted an 11-2 record, as Thursday’s win marks their seventh straight — a tied-for school-best mark with the 1989-90 SSU men’s team.
Thomas’ group dominated the glass as one of the keys to the win.
Shawnee State managed to outrebound the Tigers 46-35, including an 18-8 mark on the offensive glass — which helped it create multiple second-chance opportunities.
“To beat a Georgetown team like that, I think we outrebounded them by 11, was huge for us. We did a good job sharing the ball at times, but we can be a lot better,” Thomas said. “We made plays at the right time, got stops at the right time. It became a slugfest, and Georgetown’s a heavyweight. We’re trying to be in that position too, so it was great to be able to come away with the win today.”
Onu’s game-winner was part of his 16-point, nine-rebound, five-block effort — adding to his already school-record block totals he’s collected while in a Bears uniform.
Jones scored a team-high 17 points and had six assists, including the game-winning dime to Onu in the final seconds.
Junior Amier Gilmore posted a double-double in the win — an 11-point, 15-rebound effort as one of five SSU players to reach double figures in scoring.
“That’s what Amier does, he’s a machine on the glass,” Thomas said. “He had a tremendous game. Most people won’t notice that, but his floor game was really good for us. Defensively he was moving from whichever guy was hot. Defense, rebounding — that’s our glue.”
Additionally, junior Issac Abergut added 12 points and five rebounds, while senior Miles Thomas scored each of his 11 points in the first half.
Georgetown was led in scoring by freshman Derrin Boyd’s game-high 26 points — including six-of-11 shooting from three — and senior Carson Newsome’s 22-point effort.
Although the win is a key one, the road through a tough Mid-South Conference regular-season schedule continues this Saturday (Jan. 9) for Shawnee State — when it’ll welcome Campbellsville University (Ky.) to Waller Gymnasium.
The Bears have won three-in-a-row against Campbellsville, sweeping the season series last year against the Tigers.
To win a program-best eight games in a row, and more importantly continue in their push for the first conference championship in program history, Thomas wants his team to remain focused so that it may continue to position itself for an outstanding finish.
“For us coaches, we want to keep it going. For the guys, they’re able to do something that’s never been done before so that’s always great,” Thomas said. “We want to be in the position to win a conference championship, that’s what we’re doing right now. At the same time, we still have to take it one game at a time. Don’t get too ahead of ourselves — still humble, but hungry at the same time.”
Georgetown College 37 36 — 73
Shawnee State 31 43 — 74
No. 6 GEORGETOWN COLLEGE (Ky.) 73 (7-2)
Brodricks Jones 3 0-0 7, Kyran Jones 1 3-4 5, Jaquay Wales 2 0-2 5, Derrin Boyd 10 0-0 26, Carson Newsome 7 4-4 22, Chucky Wilson 2 0-0 4, Rashad Bishop 0 4-4 4; TOTALS 25 11-14 73; Three-point field goals: 12 (Derrin Boyd 6, Carson Newsome 4, Brodericks Jones and Jaquay Wales 1 apiece)
SHAWNEE STATE 74 (11-2)
Amier Gilmore 4 3-5 11, James Jones 7 2-3 17, E.J. Onu 7 1-3 16, Jakiel Wells 0 0-0 0, Issac Abergut 5 0-0 12, Kobie Johnson 1 2-2 4, Miles Thomas 3 3-3 11, Latavious Mitchell 1 1-1 3, Donovan Carlisle 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 28 12-17 74; Three-point field goals: 6 (Miles Thomas and Isaac Abergut 2 apiece, James Jones and E.J. Onu 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved