The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (10-12, 6-10 MEC) snapped a four-game losing streak by putting on a tremendous offensive showing in its 85-76 home victory over the Urbana University Blue Knights (10-10, 8-8 MEC) on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3, in the Butcher Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Shepherd’s 85-point total tied a season-high for scoring in a single game, which could not have come at a better time for the Rams. In the Rams’ four-game losing streak, the Rams did not eclipse 60 points three times, with the highest total out of the four games being 72 in Thursday afternoon’s loss to Notre Dame.
After the game, via text messages, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, described what the Rams were able to do so well offensively that it was not able to before in previous games.
“[W]we had balanced scoring and everyone was having fun,” Eckleberry explained. “We played with a lot of emotion and it got us going well on the offensive end.”
Not everything was simple for the Rams on Saturday against the Blue Knights, however. In the first quarter, the Blue Knights dictated to the Rams’ defense what is going to do and when it was going to do it.
Urbana continually penetrated the interior of the Shepherd defense and converted on numerous layup opportunities. This allowed the mid-range and outside shooting game for the Blue Knights to develop and get into a good flow early on.
Shepherd was able to stay in the game thanks to a solid mid-range shooting display. The Rams knocked down countless jump shots that helped spring the entire offense into a solid rhythm early on.
Neither side made more than three three-pointers (Notre Dame: 2-for-7; Shepherd 3-for-8) in the first half of action, but this would be an important area to watch going forward in this game.
The Blue Knights held a slim 39-36 lead at halftime, but the Rams were right on their heels, as the team was playing with a sense of hope and promise after a troubling opening quarter.
This hope and promise was exemplified by Shepherd senior guard Morgan Arden, who recorded 18 of her game-high 30 points in the second half to help the Rams defeat the Blue Knights.
Arden’s jumper at the 7:05 mark in the third quarter gave the Rams a 43-41 lead that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Urbana’s offense scored a respectable 37 points in the second half, but a few turnovers offensively and an inability to contain the Rams’ attack ultimately plagued the Blue Knights’ efforts.
The entire Shepherd offense was flowing in the second half as well, as Arden did not have to carry the team by herself. In the second half alone, the Rams shot 52 percent (13-for-25) overall and 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
The Rams received valuable efforts from other players in the second half in particular, such as from senior guard Tiffany McKinney and junior guards Kayla Tibbs and Kari Lankford, helping the Rams’ offense to operate with great efficiency in the second half.
On the other side, the Blue Knights could not find any success with the three-point shot. The Blue Knights did not make any of their 11 three-point field goal attempts in the second half, as the team went ice cold from distance.
However, despite losing the lead, the Blue Knights kept competing until the very end.
A layup by Urbana sophomore forward Sylvia Hudson trimmed the Rams’ lead to just five with a 77-72 score with just 50 seconds remaining in regulation.
This last ditch effort came a little too late for the Blue Knights, however, as the Rams would go on to make all eight of their free throw attempts inside of the final 50 seconds to help clinch the win over the Blue Knights.
Eckleberry also elaborated on how important it was for the Rams to win on Saturday to stop the four-game losing streak, in addition to what type of momentum she believes the Rams can take from this win moving forward.
“[W]we had a great week of practices and I thought we competed and played well in our loss on [T]thursday [against Notre Dame],” Eckleberry said. “So I feel it was very important to close the week with a win and keep momentum going forward into next week.”
Hudson proved to be a tremendous challenge for the Rams to contain all afternoon long. Hudson shot 11-for-17 from the floor (64.71 percent) to help herself finish with a team-high 25 points. Against the Rams, Hudson also pulled down three rebounds and posted one block and one steal.
Senior guard Stefanie Davis hurt the Rams in all kinds of ways by scoring 22 points dishing out five assists, which tied Arden and Lankford for the most in the game. Davis’ eight rebounds were the second most in the game behind Lankford’s nine.
Lankford, as has been a common theme this season, gave an impressive effort in many different areas for the Rams. Her 15 points came as a result of a stellar shooting display (6-for-9). Lankford’s nine rebounds led all players and her five assists helped the Rams’ offense get into the flow it needed to bust out of this frustrating stretch offensively.
McKinney had 12 points in the contest, while Tibbs contributed 18 points and four rebounds. Tibbs struggled from the floor (3-for-10) but executed exceptionally from the free throw line, as she knocked down 10 out of her 11 attempts from the foul line.
It was a great shooting day overall for the Rams at the free throw line. As a team, the Rams shot 27-for-30 (90 percent) at the free throw line, an element that was extremely instrumental in helping to get their offensive flowing.
Urbana shot 45.3 percent (29-for-64) overall from the floor in the loss, but struggled mightily from beyond the three-point line, shooting just 2-for-18 (11.1 percent). Getting to the free throw line was a solid source of offense for the Blue Knights, as they made 16 out of their 22 attempts (72.7 percent) from the foul line.
Shepherd made 48.1 percent (25-of-52) of its shots overall, including an impressive 47.1 percent (8-for-17) effort from beyond the arc, perhaps a sign that the offense has rounded the corner after a few disappointing previous outings.
The Rams will attempt to carry over this impressive performance to try and win its second game in a row when they travel to Athens, West Virginia, on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 8, to take on the Concord University Mountain Lions. The game is set to start at 5:30 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org