The Rams (19-11) fell to No. 1 ranked Fairmont state (29-1) Saturday night by a score of 93-65. From the beginning the Fighting Falcons looked like the stronger team. Shepherd didn’t have possession of the lead at any point during the game as the Ram defense struggled to find answers.
By the end of the first half Fairmont State led Shepherd 43-30 behind Matt Bingaya’s 11 points. The Fighting Falcons employed tough press defense to make the Shepherd offense feel uncomfortable. In the first half, the Rams shot a poor 33 percent from the floor and 27 percent from the three-point line. Shepherd knew they would have to keep up with the Falcons in this game, and in the first half the shots didn’t fall.
Junior guard Skyler Roman led the Rams with 8 points in the opening half.
The second half told more of the same as Fairmont State outscored Shepherd 50-35. It was an uncharacteristic night for the Rams behind the arc when they could least afford it, as they shot 2-12 from three in the second half. The Falcons however, shot 10-19 from the three point line to help extend their lead.
Senior guard Naim Muhammad led all Rams scorers in the game with 15 points and 6 rebounds on 6-17 shooting including 0-3 from three-point range. Junior Forward AJ Carr added 14 points and 6 rebounds on 4-12 shooting and 2-8 from the three-point line.
Matt Bingaya for Fairmont State was the game’s leading scorer as he notched 21 points and 11 rebounds on 7-16 shooting. It was a balanced effort offensively for the Fighting Falcons as three other players scored in the double digits. Teammates Vonte Montgomery and Shammgod Wells contributed with 15 points each. Fairmont state also had 29 bench points indicating a balanced attack, whereas Shepherd had just 5 bench points.
Shepherd Head Coach Justin Namolik spoke after the game on Fairmont states performance when he said, “Fairmont stats is the number team in the nation. They are athletic and deep, and their pressure wore us down.”
Namolik also offered an exciting statement for Rams fans on next season when he said, “I’m very proud of what we accomplished this season, we had three players surpass 1,000 points for their career, we had three players receive all conference honors, we were ranked in the top 10 in the Atlantic region, and we made plays to win a lot of close games. We return six of our top seven scorers, I think we have a chance to make a run at a MEC championship next year.”
The season looks to be over for the Rams but as Namolik said, the team is looking strong on paper to make a deep run in next year’s MEC tournament at least.