The Shepherd Rams men’s basketball team (6-6, 2-4 MEC) won its third game in a row by taking down the Lincoln University Lions (6-7, 1-2 CIAA) by a 93-63 score Saturday afternoon, Dec. 30, in the Butcher Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
All throughout the game, the Rams shot the ball extremely well. For the game, the Rams shot 49.3 percent (34-69) and made at least 16 shots in both halves, executing at a high level during the contest.
From the three-point line in particular, the Rams displayed great accuracy, making 44.1 percent (15-34) of their three-pointers in the game. The Rams came out of the gates ready to fire from three-point range, as they made eight three-pointers in the first half alone.
Rams senior guard Steffen Davis, who led all players with 20 points in the contest, tied for a team and game-high with five made three-pointers with teammate Thomas Lang, a sophomore guard. Davis and Lang pulled down four and five rebounds, respectively, on the night as well.
After the game, via email, Davis explained how he and the rest of his teammates were able to continually get good looks at the basket from three-point range and knock down their three-point shots.
“We did a great job of sharing the ball tonight,” Davis said. “We made it an emphasis to move the ball side to side and eventually [thought that] their defense would break down because of all [of] their switching [defensively]. When we move the ball and get stops, we are difficult to keep up with. I also believe that we had our legs under us after the break. Our shots were looking fluid.”
Even though the Rams lit up the scoreboard with 43 points in the first half of action, the Lions had 34 points in the first half themselves. In the first half, the Lions shot 41.94 percent (13-31) from the field, showcasing good ball movement and patience in trying to score against the Rams’ defense.
Lions senior guard/forward Sean James, who led his team with 16 points on the afternoon, helped keep the Lions in the game by scoring eight first half points, where he made two of his four three-pointers in the contest.
James could not be counted on for the whole game, however, as he would make just four out of his fifteen three-point attempts (26.67 percent) in the game.
The Lions were able to score inside and out, but did not perform as well from three-point range (4-15) as the Rams did in the first half, making just 26.67 percent of their three-pointers.
Davis touched on the Rams’ struggles defensively in the first half.
“We were having some trouble guarding their dribble drive and keeping them off the glass,” Davis explained. “It was a lot of back and forth and we didn’t have a gritty defensive mindset tonight. Once we switched to [z]Zone, however, it really slowed down their dribble penetration and we made them take tough shots. We did a great job on the glass in the second half as well to limit them to one shot. We need to get back to that over the next couple practices so we are ready for conference play.”
As Davis alluded to, the Rams battled hard in winning the rebounding battle, gaining a 45-39 edge in this area of the game. In light of the Rams’ success here, both teams still managed to record 24 second chance points on the afternoon.
Scoring wise, inside the paint, the Rams dominated this facet of the game by scoring 32 points compared to the Lions’ 14.
Despite the Rams’ continued success offensively in the second half, the Lions were still managing to hang around.
Lions junior guard Gevon Arrington and sophomore guard Cameron Campbell carried the load for the Lions early on in the second half, largely by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line by drawing fouls on Rams’ defenders.
Arrington and Campbell finished the afternoon with 12 and nine points, respectively, to aid James in the scoring department for the Lions.
However, the Lions could not find much offense beyond the free throw line in the second half, as the Lions shot just 21.88 percent (7-32) from the floor in the second half. This putrid performance offensively was not nearly enough to compensate for their continuous breakdowns defensively.
For the game, the Lions made 31.7 percent (20-63) of their shots, including a dismal 21.4 percent (6-28) performance from beyond the three-point line. The Lions did shoot 17-of-22 (77.3 percent) from the free throw line, but this would not be enough to keep them in the game with the Rams, who shot the ball well all evening against the Lions’ defense.
Consecutive made three-pointers by Rams senior forwards Gavin McTavish and AJ Carr gave the Rams a 74-53 lead with 8:55 left in regulation that all but wrapped up the game for the Rams.
McTavish provided a nice spark from beyond the arc for the Rams, as he finished the game with 13 points. On the afternoon, McTavish made three out of his four attempts (75 percent) from beyond the arc. McTavish also contributed defensively by grabbing eight rebounds for a near double-double performance.
Carr had an efficient shooting night by making five out of his nine field goal attempts (55.56 percent) in route to posting 12 points against the Lions. Sharing the basketball was also a strength of Carr’s game Saturday afternoon, as he dished out a game-high 10 assists to post a double-double. Carr nearly had a triple-double by recording eight rebounds as well.
Lions freshman forward Deaquan Williams managed to score just six points in the contest, but he did put forth a valuable performance rebounding wise by grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds for the Lions.
The Rams were not able to get to the free throw line as much as the Lions were, but did make 10 out of their 13 free throw attempts (76.9 percent).
Saturday afternoon’s win marked the third in a row for the Rams, as the team appears to have found its groove.
The head coach of the Rams, Justin Namolik, via email, gave his thoughts after the game on how the Rams have achieved this three-game winning streak.
“The keys have been developing a togetherness where we trust each other on the court,” Namolik said. “Also, our collective fight on defense is improving, to win tough games in this league we are going to need this fight.”
In Saturday afternoon’s contest, the Rams turned the ball over just seven times. Namolik explained how important it was to do that to keep the offense in rhythm.
“We have improved as a team [in] taking care of the basketball,” Namolik said. “After some games early in the season where we turned it over, we have been much more consistent in taking care of the basketball.”
Defensively, the Rams forced the Lions into 10 turnovers that led to 12 points off turnovers. On a night where the Lions struggled to play defense, turning the ball over and giving the Rams easy looks at the basket was not an ideal scenario for the Lions.
Having the Rams play a complete game defensively is something that the Rams need to work on despite the win, as Davis explained.
“Definitely our defensive mindset and grit [is something to work on the next game],” Davis said. “We know our defense is our best offense, so when we get stops we can get out and run and get easy looks. Like [I]i said earlier[,] conference play is coming up and we know we have to lock in defensively for the whole 40 minutes in order to win games.”
On Thursday, Jan. 4, the Rams will attempt to win their fourth game in a row when they host Concord at 7:30 p.m. in the Butcher Center.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org