MARIETTA, Ga. — Most coaches inside the Mid-South Conference will tell you, and tell you in a hurry, that no road victory in the MSC goes unearned.
That was especially the case on Saturday afternoon for the Shawnee State men’s basketball team, as the No. 6-ranked Bears clawed their way back from a five-point deficit (70-65) with 5:46 remaining — to capture their 15th consecutive victory with an 81-77 triumph over Life in Marietta, Ga.
In arguably its hardest-fought road win of the year, Shawnee State was out-rebounded by Life by a plus-five margin (40-35), allowed 17 Running Eagle three-pointers and a 43.6-percent three-point mark, and struggled to contain Jordan Hernandez and Isaiah Hart, who combined for 14 three-pointers on their own en route to 27 and 26 points respectively.
However, in spite of those numbers, the Bears still managed to pull out the four-point win by notching 22 assists on their 31 made field goals, shooting a blistering 56.4-percent mark from the floor (31-of-55), and pairing those two facets up with a monster effort by E.J. Onu.
Onu, not in my house
Building a wall around the paint, Onu was so strong from start to finish that Shawnee State couldn’t afford to take its star 6-11 big man off the floor.
The senior from Cleveland posted 13 points, six blocks and four rebounds in the opening half alone on 6-of-7 shooting to help SSU out to a roaring start — with the Bears taking a 46-31 lead into halftime.
Needing another big effort from Onu in the second half, the 2019-20 first-team all-MSC and Honorable Mention NAIA All-American delivered, scoring eight of his 14 second-half points in the game’s final 10:37 — while adding in five rebounds to help Shawnee State fight off Life’s effective counterpunches from beyond the arc.
For the contest, Onu posted 27 points, 10 blocks and nine rebounds to come within one board of his second triple-double of the season.
His 27 points were two off his career high set against Freed-Hardeman two weekends ago, while his 10 blocks were just three back of his career-high in that category.
For his career, Onu now has 1,388 points, 775 rebounds and 471 blocks in all.
By scoring his 27 points to get to his career total of 1,388, Onu passed Mark Bryant, Adam Davenport and Jay Hall to move into fourth place all-time in SSU history in career scoring.
He sits just 101 points back of Antwain Lavender (1,489 points) for third-place all-time.
Carlisle comes up
big in first half
Coming off the bench to join Onu in double figures in the opening half, Donoven Carlisle proved to compliment Onu effectively with his ability to stretch the floor.
Needing his feathery touch from outside to provide floor spacing against a Life unit which is proficient at doing just that, Carlisle answered the bell — by scoring all 10 of his points in the opening half and nailing each of his first three shots from the floor.
In addition to his 10 tallies, Carlisle also added in six rebounds and went 4-of-6 from the field while also going 2-of-3 from three-point range.
Gilmore, Johnson, Thomas
nail big shots, free throws
Following Onu’s and Carlisle’s efficient efforts, the quartet of Amier Gilmore, Kobie Johnson, Miles Thomas and Jakiel Wells were all big at different points during the contest.
Johnson — who played significant minutes during the opening half — again showcased a good stroke from three-point range, knocking down both of his two three-pointers en route to six points.
Thomas, in particular, aided the Bears in a big way over the game’s final five minutes — going 5-of-6 from the free throw-line and, after going 0-of-5 from three-point range, nailing a big-time trey which cut a 72-68 Life lead down to 72-71 with 4:48 to go.
Thomas led the Bears with five assists at halftime, and finished with 13 points and eight assists in 35 minutes of play.
As for Gilmore, the junior from Eastpointe, Mich. scored seven of his 11 points in the second half — using his relentless energy to aid the Bears along.
He added in six assists, including five in the final 20 minutes, in the four-point win.
With the victory, Shawnee State (19-2, 14-1 MSC) gets a four-day layoff before returning to action with five games in a nine-day stretch — the first of which is a home contest against Pikeville on Thursday (Feb. 4) in the second game of the regular season between the two conference foes.
That matchup is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Waller Gymnasium.