The Shawnee State men’s basketball saw its three-game winning streak come to an end Saturday afternoon against St. Catharine 80-72.
The Bears (12-8, 8-4 MSC), who entered the game ranked 24th in the latest NAIA Poll and had not lost a home conference game since the MSC opener against Cumberlands back on Nov. 15 — a six-game home conference winning streak — went cold in the second half, shooting just 25-percent from the field in the loss to the Patriots (8-10, 4-8 MSC).
Five different St. Catharine players were in double figures during the victory. Three of them finished with at least 17 points, led by Kevin Kornegay’s 19. Jeremy Bennington matched that game high with 19 points of his own while the MSC leader in double-doubles, Tyler Morgan, finished with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. Both Tyler Boyles and Trevor Banks finished with 12 points, giving the Bears four players that finished in double figures.
After both teams alternated offensive bursts in the early going, the two sides found themselves tied at 11 just over five-and-a-half minutes into the game. They would be tied four times in the first eight-plus minutes, with the latest coming at 16-all before the Bears consistently held the upper hand on the scoreboard for much of the first half. Threes from Devon Carter and Boyles would put SSU up 22-16 with 9:15 in the half.
Shawnee State would still be holding onto a 27-21 edge with 7:46 in the first. After St. Catharine got the game to within two, Boyles made a three to put the Bears up by five but five more points from the Patriots knotted the score at 30-all with 4:33 in the half.
Nick Gouch’s layup would give the Bears the lead for the final time in the opening half as the Patriots went on a 9-0 run to take a seven-point lead, 39-32, with two minutes until half. Threes by Bennington and a buzzeer-beater from Banks sandwiched around a dunk by the Patriots gave the visitors a 41-38 lead at the half.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Patriots kept up the offensive pressure and scored nine of the first 13 points to start the second half and held an eight-point lead with just under 17 minutes to go. With just under 12 minutes to play, St. Catharine would be holding a nine-point lead.
Bennington would be fouled behind the arc and made all three of his from the charity stripe while a turnover at the other end that was followed by another Banks’ three cut the St. Catharine lead to 52-48 with 11:20 to play.
The Patriots’ coaching staff sensed the swing in momentum and took a timeout to stop the run. The visitors then responded with an 8-0 run to take their lead up to what was a game-high 12 point advantage at the time with 9:23 to play. Over the next six minutes the Patriots let their lead slip to under 10 points on just two occasions, and during each of those times they answered immediately with a basket.
The Bears got the lead under 10 for good after Bennington was again fouled behind the arc and made all three from the free throw line to make the deficit eight with 3:22 to play. Two more free throws from Bennington two possessions later would get the St. Catharine lead to six with 1:58 to play.
A Patriots’ jumper was answered with a three from Banks. The visitors made two free throws at the other end but another three, this time coming from Bennington, made it a four-point game with 1:04 to play.
St. Catharine missed the orginal attempt on its next possession but was in position for the offensive rebound and got the tip-in to go, giving the Patriots a six-point lead with 29 seconds to play. The Bears missed a three at the other end before St. Catharine added a layup in the closing seconds.
SSU will now head back on the road this Thursday and Saturday to take on Campbellsville (8 p.m.) and Lindsey Wilson (2 p.m.), respectively. The Bears picked up two wins during the home weekend against these two schools and will be looking to carry that success on the road.