HENDERSON, Tenn. — In a back-and-forth outing where it’s clear that neither team truly holds the upper hand over their opponent, a team needs difference-making plays.
Shawnee State senior big man E.J. Onu wasted no time providing those types of difference-making statlines that, even for him, were exceptional.
Onu stars again in win
Facing a strong Freed-Hardeman unit that came in with a strong 9-3 record, Onu proved to be outstanding in all facets, knocking down his first six shots — including a perfect 5-of-5 from three-point range — en route to a 22-point, three-block opening half.
That set the tone for one of Onu’s best career performances, with the 6-11 center finishing with a career-high 29 points to go along with eight blocks and six rebounds — all on 11-of-13 shooting — in an 80-76 victory for No. 7 Shawnee State at Freed-Hardeman on Saturday at the Freed-Hardeman University Sports Center in Henderson, Tenn.
Shawnee State, which shot 32-of-70 from the floor en route to a 45.7-percent clip from the field, held Freed-Hardeman to a 41-percent shooting mark (29-of-71).
The Bears had 15 assists on their 32 makes, while holding Freed-Hardeman to just seven assists on their 29 conversions — — and outscoring the Lions 17-11 in second-chance points.
Onu keeps moving
up record books
With his 29-point, eight-block, six-rebound performance, Onu is now up to 1,294 points, 738 rebounds and 445 blocks — putting the senior six points away from becoming the eighth player in the history of Shawnee State men’s basketball to reach 1,300 points for a career and five blocks away from 450 for his career.
continue strong play
Consistently providing Shawnee State with necessary lifts, James Jones and Amier Gilmore were again paramount in yet another SSU triumph.
Jones — who didn’t have his best shooting performance — still impacted the game in other facets, posting 12 points and three assists in 32 minutes of action while turning the ball over just twice.
Gilmore, once more, hit the glass hard — with three of his six rebounds being of the offensive variety.
The junior added in three assists himself and a steal in 26 minutes.
In posting those above numbers, Gilmore tied Onu, Miles Thomas and Isaac Abergut for the team-lead in rebounds and matched Jones and Donoven Carlisle for the team-lead in assists — all while not committing a single turnover.
Carlisle, Beard post
Along with the above trio, Carlisle and Tre Beard were tremendous for the Bears, especially in stretching the floor.
Carlisle — who posted a 12-point, six-rebound performance in an 88-82 victory over Bethel (Tenn.) on Thursday evening — followed that strong performance up with a nine-point, five-rebound, three-assist outing on just five shots in the win in 27 minutes.
Carlisle also turned the ball over just twice, as the 6-8 stretch forward continued showing off his versatile game.
Speaking of improvement, Beard — making just his 11th appearance as a Bear — shined tremendously in increased playing time.
The 5-11 guard, who is a universally-liked player that those inside the program are high on for many reasons, posted a very impressing nine-point outing on 3-of-5 shooting — all from beyond the arc.
Beard also grabbed four rebounds and two assists, while committing one turnover in 16 minutes.
Behind Carlisle and Beard, Thomas, Abergut and Latavious Mitchell were tremendous on the glass — combining for an impressive 16 rebounds.
With the win, No. 7 Shawnee State (14-2, 10-1 MSC) holds a two-game advantage in the Mid-South Conference race.
The Bears will return home this week to face off against Lindsey Wilson and Cumberland (Tenn.) on Thursday (Jan. 21) and Saturday (Jan. 23) in Mid-South Conference play.
Game times are set for 8 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively — as part of MSC doubleheader action that follows the No. 9 women’s team’s action against the same two institutions.
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