Rams exhibit strong defensive showing in 65-47 home win over West Virginia Wesleyan

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Shepherd junior guard Kayla Tibbs (13), pictured here in the Rams' home victory over West Virginia Wesleyan back on Jan. 17, scored 21 points to help take the scoring pressure off of Arden, providing balance to the Shepherd offense. (William Ransom/The Picket).

The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (9-8, 5-6 MEC) held the visiting West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats (5-12, 3-8 MEC) to 21.7 percent shooting (15-for-69) in its 65-47 home victory over the Bobcats Wednesday evening, Jan. 17. 

Both teams played defense at a high level, forcing the other into numerous turnovers early on. These turnovers stalled any offensive momentum for the Rams and the Bobcats. 

The Bobcats did not allow any easy penetration by the Rams’ ball handlers, clogging the lane at all times in the first half. No Shepherd player was able to dribble inside and set up their own shot. 

This forced the Rams to have crisp ball movement and take a high-volume of shots from three-point range. From beyond the arc, the Rams shot 4-for-12 (33.33 percent), forcing the Bobcats to respect their outside shooting. 

Defensively, the Rams played great aggressive, speeding up the thought process of the Bobcats’ ball handlers. The Bobcats did manage to get some decent shot opportunities inside the paint and from mid-range, but could not convert thanks to the Rams’ pressure. 

Shepherd had a 26-23 lead at halftime, but knew that it had to step up its game offensively in the second half in order to earn a win over the Bobcats.  

This defensive them continued on early into the third quarter as well. With a 31-29 lead near the halfway point of the third quarter, the Rams needed a spark to help them separate from the Bobcats. 

Junior guard Kayla Tibbs provided this exact spark with the first eight points in what was an 11-0 run for the Rams. Tibbs made two three-pointers and two free throws that really gave the Rams life offensively in ways that they did not have earlier in the game.  

It was an excellent quarter for the Rams overall, winning by a 26-13 margin to take a 52-36 lead entering the fourth quarter of play.  

A three-pointer by Bobcats’ senior forward Mari Stewart trimmed the Rams’ lead to 54-39 with 9:45 to play, but the Bobcats would go ice cold shooting for the next several minutes. The Bobcats did not make their next field goal for the next seven plus minutes at the 2:07 mark. 

Freshman guard Carrie Barnett’s basket came far too little too late for the Bobcats, as the game was far out of reach for the Bobcats by this point. 

Tibbs struggled during certain times of the game shooting wise, finishing 3-for-10 on the evening, but when her team needed her the most in the third quarter, she came through in large and impactful ways. 

Following the game, Tibbs, who had 10 points on the evening, explained how important her third-quarter scoring spree was in helping to give the Rams life offensively against the Bobcats. 

“Well offensively we moved the ball around [and did] what we were supposed to do,” Tibbs said. “I had a big three to get us all fired up and get going.”  

Shepherd senior guard Morgan Arden (3) was a constant force offensively for the Rams all night long, finishing as the game’s leading scorer with 26 points. (William Ransom/The Picket).

Tibbs did not have to handle the scoring load by herself, however. Freshman forward Sydney Clayton had a near double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Morgan Arden led all players with 26 points and six assists.  

Arden did have a game-high six turnovers, but helped to make up for it with her two steals and lethal 6-for-7 shooting from beyond the three-point line.  

The Rams struggled offensively in the first half, but managed to compile 39 points in the second half compared to their 26-point first half outing. Overall, Shepherd shot 43.1 percent (22-for-51), including but was particularly effective from three-point range. Against the Bobcats, the Rams shot 8-for-18 (44.4 percent), making four out of their six shot attempts from beyond the arc in the second half. Additionally, from the free throw line, the Rams shot very well, making 13 of their 17 shots (76.5 percent). 

The Bobcats could not find their stroke from beyond the arc, shooting just 1-for-16 (6.3 percent) from beyond the three-point line. From the free throw line, the Bobcats did not perform especially well either, making just 16-of-24 (66.7 percent) of their shots in this facet of the game. 

West Virginia Wesleyan had only one player in double figures, freshman guard Victoria Jackson. It was a rough shooting night for Jackson, who led her team in scoring and tied for first on her team with eight rebounds. 

Freshman guard Summer Matlack only scored four points for the Bobcats, but did manage to lead her team with four assists on the evening. 

Senior guard Tiffany McKinney was an additional solid presence for the Rams offensively. McKinney shot just 2-for-8 from the floor, but made six out of her seven free throw attempts against the Bobcats. 

After the game, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, explained what her team was able to do so well defensively against the Bobcats to hold them to 47 points in the victory. 

“I think that we played good defense the whole game,” Eckleberry said. “The difference was in the first half, we weren’t making wide open shots. I thought we had a lot of good looks, but then we made them in the second half and that kind of got us going. It made us pick up a little bit [of our] defensive intensity. We went to a zone [defense], but everyone was flying [around] and I think that was huge.”  

The Rams forced 18 turnovers at the hands of the Bobcats, but turned it over 24 times themselves. 

Tibbs stressed that the Rams need to work on not committing so many turnovers like they did against the Bobcats. 

“We definitely need to work on taking of the ball,” Tibbs explained. “Turnovers killed us today, but we’ll get back to it.” 

Currently, the Rams are in seventh place in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings. Shepherd is within one game of Charleston, West Virginia State, and West Liberty, the next three teams in front of the Rams. 

Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at abrack02@rams.shepherd.edu