The Shepherd Rams men’s basketball team (7-6, 3-4 MEC) won its fourth game in a row by putting on a show offensively in its 91-73 home victory over the Concord University Mountain Lions (8-4, 5-2 MEC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Thursday evening, Jan. 4.
Concord could not guard Shepherd well in either half, as the Rams made over half of their shots in both halves Thursday evening. As a team, Shepherd shot an astonishing 55.9 percent (33-59) from the floor, including a stellar 48.1 percent (13-27) from beyond the three-point line.
Getting to the free throw line was also a strength of the Rams, as the team shot 80 percent (12-15) from the charity stripe.
With five Rams posting double figures in scoring, Concord could not pay extra attention to any one Rams player in particular, making them even more difficult to defend.
Rams senior guard Steffen Davis tied junior forward Winston Burgess for the team lead in points with 19 on the night. Davis made four three-pointers and posted four rebounds on the night.
Burgess was a problem for the Mountain Lions to contain all night long. Having a very efficient shooting night (8-12) helped Burgess compile 19 points and 13 rebounds to finish with a double-double on the evening.
Following the game, via email, Burgess explained how he was able to get into a good groove offensively for the Rams.
“[I]i just knew I had to go out and attack them in the paint because they were a smaller team,” Burgess said.
Senior forward AJ Carr had an excellent night as well for the Rams, finishing with a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Thomas Lang was a versatile weapon for the Rams, recording 12 points and a game-high six assists. Lang was able to continually find the open shooter against Concord’s defense with his amazing vision and ball placement on his passes.
Junior guard Derek McKnight had a very similar outing to Lang’s, as he contributed 10 points and five assists for the Rams. McKnight and Lang, who combined to post 11 assists, notched over half of the Rams’ 21 assists on the night.
Sharing the basketball was an area where the Rams had a significant advantage against the Mountain Lions Thursday evening. The Rams moved the ball well and ended up with 21 assists, compared to just eight for the Mountain Lions.
After the game, the head coach of the Rams, Justin Namolik, gave praise to the team’s growth offensively and how well they shared the ball against the Mountain Lions.
“I’m most proud of how we continue to improve offensively this season. We have grown so much in taking care of the basketball and taking good shots. As a group, when we get good looks, we have guys that can convert,” Namolik said.
Mountain Lions’ junior guard Tommy Bolte has been a force offensively for his team this season, averaging 34.6 points per game. Against the Rams on Thursday evening, Bolte eclipsed that total, registering 38 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists, but the Rams’ defense did force him into committing seven turnovers.
Namolik gave his thoughts on the team’s defensive effort on Bolte and the rest of the Mountain Lions.
“I thought our defense was great tonight. We made Bolte earn every point and we did a great job of not letting anyone else hurt us,” Namolik said.
As Namolik said, aside from Bolte, the rest of the Mountain Lions combined for just 35 points, as only one other Mountain Lion, freshman forward Antonio Patterson, managed to reach double figures in scoring. Patterson compiled 11 points to pair with five rebounds on the night, but curiously played just 11 minutes against the Rams.
The impressive defensive effort of the Rams held Concord to 38.1 percent shooting (24-63) for the game. Shepherd’s defense was not able to defend the three-point line very well, however, as Concord shot a low percentage (32.4 percent) (12-37) but did manage to knock down 12 three-pointers. When the Mountain Lions got to the free throw line, they executed at a fairly high level, shooting 76.5 percent (13-17) from the foul line on the evening.
Both teams were very competitive early on, with the lead changing a few times. Neither side could gain much of any separation from the other.
Shepherd did manage to get some breathing room around the seven-minute mark of the first half. This was when the Rams started attacking the basket and drawing fouls that led to successful free throw attempts.
This helped open up the mid-range and three-point game for the Rams, as the Concord defense displayed great confusion as to what section of the court to concentrate on guarding.
Davis made two three-pointers towards the end of the first half that helped give the Rams a 47-36 lead at halftime.
In the second half of action, things did not really change for Concord. The Mountain Lions continued to showcase struggles in guarding the Rams’ dynamic and potent attack. The Rams dictated to the Mountain Lions’ defense what they were going to do and when they were going to do it, scoring inside and out.
What helped keep the Mountain Lions within striking distance was their three-point shooting. Even though the Mountain Lions shot just 32.4 percent (12-37) from beyond the arc, they did manage to make six three-pointers in both halves to keep the Rams’ defense honest.
This made the Rams respect their perimeter game, but the Mountain Lions had trouble scoring inside on the Rams’ defense. The Mountain Lions were only able to muster 14 points in the paint compared to the Rams’ 24 points inside.
Burgess put an exclamation point on the game with a dunk off of an assist from freshman guard Cam Stephens with 6:17 remaining that stretched the Rams’ lead to 19 points with an 85-66 score, all but ending the Mountain Lions’ comeback hopes on what was a frustrating night.
Concord played near evenly with Shepherd in a couple of areas, but just did not execute quite as well as Shepherd did.
Both teams turned the ball over twelve times a piece, but the Rams were able to convert the Mountain Lions’ turnovers into 21 points. The Mountain Lions produced only 16 points due to Rams’ turnovers.
The Rams grabbed 36 rebounds to the Mountain Lions’ 32 rebounds. Concord did pull down eight offensive rebounds to Shepherd’s three, but the Rams scored seven second chance points to the Mountain Lions’ six. Neither team generated many second chance points, but this was another example of the theme of the night: Shepherd played just a little better.
Concord could not make up for its defensive lapses with its mediocre shooting night against the Rams. Shooting only 38.1 percent (24-63) was not going to keep Concord in the game for long with its struggles defensively.
Shepherd is presently in eighth place in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings, but there are still plenty of games remaining for the Rams to improve their place in the standings.
The Rams will attempt to push their win streak to five games when they host UVa-Wise at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6 in the Butcher Center.
Information from Concord University’s Athletics Department was used in this article.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org