The Rams (9-10, 5-8 MEC) had a tough time knocking down their shots in a 72-59 road loss to the West Liberty Hilltoppers on Wednesday evening, Jan. 25.
Early on, both sides challenged shots on the defensive side, making it hard for either team to score in the opening minutes.
Shepherd showed its toughness in the paint, as it had its hands full with West Liberty’s junior forward Marisa Brown, who stands at 6 foot 3 inches.
Brown led the Hilltoppers in scoring, collecting 19 points and 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double. In the previous matchup with the Rams earlier this season on Dec. 6, Brown scored 25 points, but the Rams ultimately won the game in overtime by a 79-72 score.
The Rams got most of their offensive production from the interior in the first half, as they shot 46.67 percent from the field. Shepherd ran a pick-and-roll offense with senior guard Morgan Arden and freshman forward Sydney Clayton. This play worked well against West Liberty in the Rams’ earlier matchup with the Hilltoppers, but the Hilltoppers had an answer for it this time around.
Arden had a solid performance on offense, scoring a game-high 25 points to go along with four rebounds. Despite opposing teams trying to lock Arden down, she continues to find ways to score for the Rams.
The other Rams showed a lack of support for Arden offensively, as no one else served as a consistent scoring threat against the Hilltoppers.
RaThe Rams had nine turnovers in the first half, with most of them coming in the second quarter by being careless with the ball or not being able to handle pressure from the Hilltoppers.
Despite their struggles, the Rams had a 34-32 lead at halftime over the Hilltoppers thanks to surrendering just 11 points to the Hilltoppers in the second quarter.
However, Shepherd went cold from three-point range in the second half, finishing 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Overall, the Rams made just 27.3 percent of their field goal attempts in the second half, as offense was hard to come by.
The Hilltoppers had much better success from the three-point line than the Rams, shooting 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) for the game.
Midway through the third quarter, the Hilltoppers began to add to their lead by knocking down three-point shots and getting baskets from Brown inside.
In the fourth quarter, Shepherd could not connect on their open looks or challenge shots on the defensive end.
Shepherd’s offensive struggles hindered them from coming back. The Hilltoppers were able to capitalize on their 39 rebounds, as they would kick the ball out to open shooters or to cutters to the basket, who would then convert their layup opportunities.
With the loss, the Rams have now lost two straight games to the Hilltoppers and the Fairmont State Falcons, both of which were on the road.
Junior guard Kari Lankford recorded a double-double in the loss to the Hilltoppers, posting 12 points and 10 rebounds. Lankford shot 4-for-7 from the floor and made 4-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Shepherd will look to have a more complete performance on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 27, when it hosts Wheeling Jesuit at 2 p.m. in the Butcher Center.
Justin Cole is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com