CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. —It is said that a group’s willpower and true toughness is tested when obstacles are at its most difficult.
For the 2020-21 Shawnee State men’s basketball team, it’s clear that the entire group is comprised of special qualities that just aren’t found in most teams — especially with what it has accomplished this past season.
Having already sealed up the program’s first-ever conference championship of any kind with a Mid-South Conference regular-season title, the 2020-21 version wrapped up the most wins of any team in program history in a single season with its 23rd of the year and did so in style — never trailing in an 86-54 victory over Campbellsville on Saturday evening in Campbellsville, Ky.
The victory, Shawnee State’s 19th in a row, came courtesy of the theme that has been the biggest key to the Bears’ success all season — their unselfishness.
The No. 6 Bears, which shot 31-of-72 from the field to post a 42-percent clip, notched an outstanding 26 assists on its 31 makes.
This, in turn, resulted in effective spacing of the floor, as evidenced by Shawnee State’s strong 15-of-33 clip from long distance (45.5-percent).
The Bears also did a number on Campbellsville defensively, holding the Tigers to just 19-of-76 shooting from the field (25-percent) and a 5-of-29 mark from three-point range (17.2-percent).
Onu, not on my watch!
Helping Shawnee State at every turn defensively was, of course, E.J Onu.
The senior big man — who posted 10 points and two blocks in the opening half en route to a 17-point, three-block line — shot 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range for the contest, while combining with fellow forwards Latavious Mitchell, Donoven Carlisle and Amier Gilmore to give Campbellsville fits offensively.
Onu helped hold the Tigers’ forwards — Ross Ryan, Alston Davis, Lenorris Mincey and Taj Price — to a 7-of-27 clip from the field, with the quartet combining for just 18 points between them.
Thomas, Beard, Wells add
in complete floor games
With Onu continuing to do his normal work in the low post, Jakiel Wells, Tre Beard and Miles Thomas spent much of the contest dominating the proceedings on the perimeter.
Wells and Beard, in particular, were absolutely tremendous in the opening half — to the point where the duo literally couldn’t miss.
Wells and Beard each scored nine points in the opening half — with both players also going a perfect 3-of-3 from the field due to their effective long-range bombing.
Wells — who added in six first-half rebounds and four assists — ultimately finished with nine points, nine rebounds and five assists while Beard notched 12 points in all.
Both players combined for just one turnover, while going 7-of-13 from the floor.
As for Thomas, the senior wing offered up another strong performance, scoring nine of his 14 points in the second half while going 3-of-5 from the field in the final 20 minutes.
In addition to his 14 tallies, Thomas also posted six assists and five rebounds to lead the way for the Bears, helping Shawnee State claim a plus-11 rebounding advantage (59-48).
Complete effort again
evident up and down lineup
Following the main quartet, Shawnee State was filled with many great individual performances that led to another excellent team triumph.
While only shooting 3-of-14 from the field, James Jones posted the game’s highest plus-minus rating at 20 — grabbed eight rebounds, and led the Bears with seven assists while adding in eight points to continue to show off a complete game that’s been evident all year long from the four-time Mid-South Conference Player of the Week.
Behind Jones, Issac Abergut drained two critical threes en route to eight points — and added in five boards from his wing position.
Mitchell, meanwhile, proved to be outstanding defensively — grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots while adding in four points in 18 minutes of work.
Carlisle (six points, five rebounds), Gilmore (five points, four rebounds, two assists, block, steal) and Kobie Johnson (three points) rounded out the scoring for Shawnee State.
Shawnee State’s victory over Campbellsville marked the Bears’ fifth consecutive over the Tigers in the series — after sweeping all three meetings last season, including the Mid-South Conference Quarterfinal win that locked up SSU’s first-ever NAIA National Tournament bid.
The victory marks the second year in a row that SSU has swept the regular-season meetings against Campbellsville.
It is one of seven regular-season sweeps that the Bears have posted over conference competition, with the Bears also sweeping Pikeville for the third straight year — and taking home both meetings against Lindsey Wilson, Cumberlands (Ky.), Martin Methodist, Life (Ga.) and Thomas More.
Shawnee State will be the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming Mid-South Conference Tournament, and will automatically advance to the conference tournament’s final site in Bowling Green Ky. as a result.
Its opponent will be determined by MSC Opening-Round play.
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.