Rams’ offensive struggles continue in 68-50 road loss to UVa-Wise

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Shepherd senior guard Morgan Arden (3), pictured here in a home loss to Notre Dame back on Feb. 1, ended her storied career with 25 points in the loss to the Pioneers. (Tatum King/The Picket).

The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (11-13, 7-11 MEC) shot just 24.6 percent (16-for-65) in what was a frustrating afternoon offensively in its 68-50 road loss to the UVa-Wise Cavaliers (5-18, 4-14 MEC) in Wise, Virginia, on Saturday afternoon. 

Shepherd senior guard Morgan Arden, fresh off her 35-point heroic outing against Concord in overtime on Thursday evening, led all players with 16 points, but struggled shooting wise. 

On the afternoon, Arden shot just 3-for-18 (16.67 percent). It was clear that the Cavaliers were trying to do everything they could to disrupt Arden’s shooting rhythm offensively, as they devoted great attention to try to contain her. 

It was not just Arden who struggled against the stingy Cavaliers’ defense, however. The only two other Rams to score in double figures were freshman forward Sydney Clayton and junior guard Kayla Tibbs. 

Tibbs posted 11 points, the second most on the team, by shooting 5-for-15 from the floor. Clayton had a valuable double-double effort with her 10 points and 10 rebounds. 

After the game, via text messages, Tibbs explained what the Cavaliers’ defenders were able to do so effectively to limit the Rams to 4-for-16 shooting from beyond the three-point line. 

“The [C]cavs were switching all screens and had a hand in our face on almost all of our shot attempts from the [three]3 point line…I think the [C]cavs[‘] main objective was to keep us off the [three]3 point line and they did a good job of doing so,” Tibbs said.   

The Rams’ inability to finish at the basket was a key reason that the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, after the game, via text messages, gave as to why the Rams were never really able to get into an offensive flow. 

“[T]the game was a physical game and we had trouble finishing with a little contact around the basket,” Eckleberry explained. “We attacked [the basket] well [but] just [weren’t]wasn’t able to convert inside.”  

Despite the Rams’ struggles offensively, they were able to hold the Cavaliers to just 28 first half points by forcing the Cavaliers into eight turnovers and playing solid half-court defense.  

This trend would not last long for the Rams, however, as the Rams could not find any sort of a comfort zone offensively against the tenacious Cavaliers’ defense. In the second half, the Rams’ challenges offensively were highlighted by the fact that they made more made free throw attempts (nine) than they did field goal attempts (seven).  

Shooting was not an issue for the Cavaliers’ in the second half. The Cavaliers made over half of their shot attempts (55.6 percent) (15-for-27) in what was a much better half of basketball for the Cavaliers offensively compared to the first half. 

Freshman guard Bianca Lockamy was a key force in the Cavaliers’ attack offensively in the second half. Lockamy scored seven out of her 15 points in the second half, helping the Cavaliers pull away from the Rams. On the afternoon, Lockamy also recorded a team-high nine rebounds and posted three assists and two blocks as well.  

Sophomore forward Cynita Webb also helped lead the charge for the Cavaliers offensively in the second half, as she finished with six points and five rebounds. Webb had 12 points and seven rebounds overall against the Rams, as she continued to help frustrate the Rams for large portions of the game.  

Shepherd junior guard Kayla Tibbs (13), pictured here in the Rams’ home victory over West Virginia Wesleyan back on Jan. 17, finished with 11 points against the Cavaliers, but she was only one out of three Rams to reach double figures in scoring. (William Ransom/The Picket).

Shepherd had just 10 points in the third quarter compared to 24 for the Cavaliers. A three-pointer by freshman guard Judy Kaylynn Cummings pretty much sealed the Rams’ fate with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, as it stretched the Cavaliers’ lead to 17 with a 52-35 score. 

This deficit would ultimately be too much for the Rams to overcome on what was certainly a challenging afternoon offensively to say the least.  

In the loss, junior guard Kari Lankford had another nice all-around effort for the Rams. Lankford compiled eight points, five rebounds, and a game-high four steals.  

This defensive grit would not be able to compensate for the Rams’ offensive woes, however, as the Rams could not effectively counter the Cavaliers’ defensive prowess.  

In the paint, the Cavaliers had a 32-16 edge scoring wise, but Eckleberry believed that the Cavaliers did not do anything fancy to gain this advantage in the paint. It was just a matter of execution. 

“[T]they made shots and we didn’t,” Eckelberry said. 

Defensively, the Rams allowed the Cavaliers to shoot 44.8 percent (26-for-58), but they were able to generate 18 turnovers that led to 19 points. 

Tibbs discussed how the Rams were able to force these 18 turnovers that helped give a boost to the Rams’ offense. 

“[W]when we apply aggressive pressure defensively, any team will turn the ball over…once our defense started to pick up, it startled the [C]cavs and we were able to create turnovers [and turn them] into some transition points,” Tibbs said.  

The Cavaliers did a great job on the glass as well, pulling down 56 rebounds compared to 30 for the Rams. This did not lead to a significant edge for the Cavaliers in second chance points, a statistic that they won by an 8-6 margin, but it did help them control the game and mostly hold the Rams to one-and-done possessions offensively.  

This season, the Rams are averaging 65.7 points per game, but Saturday afternoon’s loss marked the 10th time this season that the Rams have failed eclipse 65 points in a game this season. 

With the loss, the Rams still sit in ninth place in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings, remaining half a game behind the Concord University Mountain Lions, who presently are in eighth place in the conference standings.  

The Rams will look to correct their offensive woes when they hit the court again this Thursday evening, Feb. 15, at home in Shepherdstown, where they will host the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. 

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