The Rams (12-7, 9-4 MEC) secured a 81-66 victory against the UVa-Wise Cavaliers (5-14, 3-10 MEC) in front of their home crowd Thursday night.
From tip off it was clear that a focal point of the Rams’ offensive game plan in the first half was to establish a presence in the paint, where they scored 24 critical points.
The Rams’ capitalized on the Cavaliers’ mistakes, forcing 13 turnovers and converting them into 24 points compared to 11 turnovers for the Rams while surrendering just 7 points. Playing solid transition defense and converting on the Cavaliers mistakes helped to grow the Rams’ lead to 8 at the end of the first half (40-32).
It appeared the Rams game plan was altered during halftime as the team actively looked for 3 point opportunities to increase the lead even further. The top scorer for the Rams’ on the night was junior guard Steffen Davis with 24 points on 9-14 shooting including 6-11 from behind the arc. Junior guard Skyler Roman was another important offensive contributor for the Rams, as he notched 17 points on 5-9 shooting from the three-point line.
Most of the three-point attempts for the Rams came in the second half as the lead grew to as large as 15 with 8:42 left to play. UVa Wise fought hard all game as they tried to make a comeback bid, but the lack of offensive output was simply too much for the visiting Cavaliers. Just three Cavalier players finished with double digit point totals. Freshman guard Michal Seals scored a team high 24 points on 9-19 shooting for the cavaliers.
As a team the Rams shot a respectable 45.2 percent (14-31) from deep. However, the Cavaliers shot a measly 30 percent (8-26) from behind the 3-point line.
The Cavaliers trimmed the Rams lead down to 10 as shepherds’ defense seemed to feel comfortable with 7:00 remaining, but the outcome of the game was never in question. Another notable performance for the Rams came from sophomore forward Winston Burgess as he scored 12 tough points to go along with seven rebounds and a block.
After the game, Coach Justin Namolik of the Rams spoke on his team’s performance:
“I think what I was most proud of today with the team was our defensive effort. The first time we played we allowed them to get into the paint too easily so that was a big emphasis heading into the game. Also holding Taiwo Badmus to eight points when he averages around 22 a game was huge for us,” Namolik said. Looking forward to the next game against Concord, Namolik said, “I’ve been telling the guys to not get used to playing basketball this time of year and we can’t forget how special of an opportunity it is and that we just need to keep our daily focus.”
The Rams play next at home Jan. 28 against Concord University.
Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org