PORTSMOUTH – Men's basketball picked up a huge MSC victory Tuesday night inside Waller Gymnasium as the Bears topped their rivals from Rio Grande, 85-70. The Bears (4-3, 2-1 MSC) now have winning records both overall and in the conference after the victory vs. the RedStorm (3-4, 1-2 MSC).
Jeremy Bennington scored 22 points off the bench for the Bears. His contribution to the win earned him the Dick Hyland Player of the Game, an award presented to one player from each team in the rivalry game. He was one of four players in double figures on the night for SSU. Tyler Morgan added 17 points to the victory, while Ian Nixson and Tyler Boyles added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
In the opening six minutes of play, the two teams found themselves tied at five different points and saw four lead changes. The latest tie came at the 14:14 mark when Morgan hit a layup to knot the score at 15-all. Following a missed three from the RedStorm, Nick Gouch gathered the rebound and a three-pointer for SSU from Nixson off the pass of Devon Carter would give the Bears the lead.
They would never trail again from that point on. A Rio Grande jumper on the next possession would get the team back within one, but that was the closest that the guests would get for the remainder of the evening. SSU would begin to stretch its lead after a pair of free throws by Andrew Devlin. Following a RedStorm turnover, Bennington would hit a jumper and was fouled in the process. He completed the three point play to give his team a six point lead.
With the score 26-21 after Rio Grande free throws, Shawnee State would go on a 14-0 run to bust the game open. After hitting a jumper with 11:07 to play in the half, Rio Grande would not score a basket from the field during the next five-plus minutes. The only two RedStorm points during that time came at the free throw line.
At the end of that run, the Bears would lead by 19 with 5:48 to play in the opening half, 40-21. The RedStorm would put a small chip in that lead in the remaining minutes of the opening half, but the Bears still carried a 15 point lead into the locker room, 44-29.
Back-to-back baskets by Rio Grande to start the second half would get them to within 11, but that was the closest the guests would come during the second half. After making the score 54-42 with 14:03, Shawnee State would not let Rio Grande score again until the 10:24 mark, while going on at 8-0 run offensively to stretch their lead to 20 with 11:35 to play.
The Bears would lead by as many as 21 with just under six minutes to play. Over that remaining time, Rio Grande would cut six points off the SSU lead but was just in too deep of a hole to climb out of as the RedStorm fell, 85-70.
Shawnee State turned the ball over just 15 times in game, while forcing 24 turnovers from their opponents. Seven different Bears finished with a steal. Morgan led everybody in that category with three takeaways. Devlin finished with a team-high seven rebounds, while Boyles and Gouch each pulled down six boards.
Men's basketball will now have just over a week to get ready for its first road Mid-South game of the season next Thursday, November 29 at Pikeville. The team will be at UVA-Wise that following Saturday. The next home game for the Bears will be December 17 against West Virginia Tech.