PORTSMOUTH, Ohio -- Saturday’s Mid-South Conference season opener was as much of a knockdown, drag out affair as possible in college basketball, but the Bears couldn’t find the stops necessary to slow down a red-hot Shawnee State offense and eventually lost, 95-86.
Directly after UPIKE hit its largest lead of the game at 10 points with 15:16 left in the game, Shawnee State went on a 27-8 run to take its largest lead, just over five minutes later. SSU shot a season-high 70.83 percent in the second half, missing just seven shots in that time frame.
That momentum swing delivered a brutal blow to the Bears that UPIKE couldn’t overcome, despite its best efforts. UPIKE had cut the lead to four with 3:12 to go and had forced SSU to the final seconds of the shot clock, but Gio Jackson hit an absolute Hail Mary of a three-pointer between two defenders to take all the air out of UPIKE’s rally. Jackson was the MVP for Shawnee State on Saturday, scoring 25 points with eight rebounds and six assists.
Jayvian Delacruz hit two three-pointers in the final minute to try to cut the lead back to a one possession game, but Shawnee was nearly perfect at the free throw line and kept UPIKE at bay for the final possessions. SSU made 20 out of 24 free throws in the second half after attempting only five in the first half. Delacruz finished with a game-high tying 25 points with eight rebounds.
UPIKE didn’t have a bad offensive night even by its own standards, shooting 47.3 percent in the game. The Bears even outrebounded Shawnee and had fewer turnovers, but Shawnee just kept finding miraculous ways to put the ball in the bucket.
The first half was a perfect indictment of how hard it is to play at Shawnee State, as the lead changed hands 10 times in the first 20 minutes alone. Neither team held more than a four-point lead in the first half. With the score tied three minutes before halftime Jordan Perry hit back-to-back buckets to give UPIKE the halftime lead.
The loss drops Pikeville to 13-3, 0-1 in the MSC. The Bears will try to get back in the win column on Thursday with an 8:00 p.m. tip-off against Life (Ga.) at the East Kentucky Expo Center.