Coming off of five straight wins heading into another critical Mid-South Conference tilt, the Shawnee State men's basketball program left nothing to chance as the Bears never trailed and put 11 different players in the scoring column in Monday evening's 81-57 victory over the Thomas More Saints' men's basketball program at Waller Gymnasium.
The victory, which marks the first time since the 2002-03 season that the Shawnee State men (10-2, 6-1 MSC) have won six consecutive games, featured another splendid outing from James Jones, who added 21 points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory. Miles Thomas (12 points, three rebounds) and EJ Onu (11 points, 10 rebounds) joined their fellow senior counterpart in double-figures for the contest in helping head the wire-to-wire effort.
In the win, SSU proved to be fantastic on all fronts, outrebounding Thomas More by 21 (47-26), shooting 26-of-55 from the field (47.3 percent) -- including a 12-of-23 mark from the field after halftime -- and going an outstanding 21-of-23 from the foul line (91.3 percent). In an even more impressive fashion, the Bears held the Saints (3-3, 1-3 MSC) to just 32.8 percent shooting and a 20 percent clip from beyond the arc, while holding Thomas More's Ryan Batte and Reid Jolly below their seasonal scoring averages in the triumph.
Jones continues 20-point per game spurts
For the third consecutive game and the fourth time in the last five outings, James Jones broke the 20-point barrier off of another efficient offensive performance.
The senior, who scored 13 of his 21 points in the opening half, again picked his spots in a nifty fashion, obtaining his 21 tallies on an efficient 6-of-12 from the field and a spotless 8-of-8 from the free throw line. His 35-foot three-pointer at the halftime buzzer proved to be key, as SSU took a 36-26 lead to the halftime locker room off of the long-distance connection.
In addition to leading all scorers on both sides, Jones matched Jolly for the game-high in assists and tied with fellow teammate Jakiel Wells for the game-high in steals, with two. Jones' seasonal averages continue to climb, with the senior now at 21.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 48.7 percent shooting.
Mitchell, Onu, Thomas all effective
Continuing to be pests defensively, the trio of Latavious Mitchell, EJ Onu, and Miles Thomas were strong throughout, as well.
Onu, who posted his sixth double-double of the season with his 11-point, 10-rebound line, notched eight boards in the opening half alone to help SSU dominate the glass once again.
For his career, Onu continues to move up the leaderboards. His 1,224 points have Onu sitting in ninth place all-time -- just 32 points back of Kirk Ruggles for eighth -- and his 703 rebounds already have the 6-11 senior sixth all-time in the latter category. He also added a pair of blocks.
Thomas and Mitchell, who have proven to be indispensable cogs off of the bench, combined for 21 of Shawnee State's 32 bench points on the evening.
The former, a 6-6 wing from Chattanooga, Tenn., posted a strong night offensively, going for six points in both halves while the latter, a 6-8 forward from Indianapolis, Ind., posted six points, two rebounds, a block and a steal in the second half alone. Mitchell finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting and a 3-of-3 mark from the free throw line.
Balance key for Bears in sixth straight win/UP NEXT
Along with the aforementioned quartet, Amier Gilmore, Issac Abergut and Kobie Johnson allowed Shawnee State to get seven players at least five points or more in the contest, while Wells, Tre Beard, Shawn Paris, Jr. and Markus Geldenhuys also reached the scoring column and played pivotal roles themselves in the win.
The 24-point win not only avenged a 69-60 home defeat to the Saints last season on Feb. 1, but matched the second-longest win streak in school history in the process. If the Bears defeat No. 6 Georgetown Thursday evening at 8 p.m., the 2020-21 version of the SSU men's basketball unit would match the 1989-90 group for the longest winning streak in program history. The No. 7 SSU women are scheduled to play the Georgetown women in the game preceding the men at 5:30 p.m.
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