The Shepherd Rams men’s basketball team fell to 0-2 on the young season with a 79-69 loss at home Saturday evening in Shepherdstown, W.Va., against the Gannon University Golden Knights (1-1) in the second and concluding day of action in the Clarion Hotel Conference Challenge.
The story of this game was clearly on the defensive side for the Rams, as they struggled to contain the Golden Knights’ offensive attack. The Golden Knights never really appeared uncomfortable offensively from the Rams’ pressure, as they shot at least 48.3 percent in both halves and 51.6 percent for the game.
Two Golden Knights senior guards, Jair Green and Zay Jackson, showcased their experience offensively. Green lit up the scoreboard with his 18-point performance that included two three-pointers. Green made six out of his 12 shots in the game, but his teammate, Zay Jackson, had an even better showing offensively.
Jackson knocked down eight out of 16 shots in the game, including four out of seven three-pointers to finish with 21 points in the game.
Golden Knights’ junior forward Evan Phoenix’s size was a significant issue for the Rams to deal with, as he posted a double-double by pulling in 10 rebounds to go along with his 16 points. Phoenix at times did whatever he wanted to the Rams’ defense, causing them a great deal of frustration.
The Golden Knights converted on half of their three-point attempts (6-12), while the Rams were murky in this department themselves, making six out of 22 (27.3 percent) as a team.
Shooting 45.8 percent (27-59) for the game kept the Rams in the contest, but the Rams had trouble getting anything going inside. A large volume of the Rams’ shots came from three-point territory, which caused the inside game to suffer, as the Rams scored just 18 points in the paint as a team.
The Rams started the second half trailing 37-34, but found themselves down by 17 later in the second half and were never able to seriously threaten the Golden Knights. This was largely due to an inability to defend the paint and contain the Golden Knights’ potent and diverse attack.
Not all was bleak for the Rams, however, as they were able to generate 10 points off of eight Golden Knights’ turnovers. Recording 10 second chance points showed great persistence and effort on the Rams’ part, but they lost the rebounding battle 38-32 to the Golden Knights overall.
The Golden Knights used these rebounds to help post their 28 points in the paint and 12 second chance points.
In the loss, senior forward AJ Carr had a dazzling output offensively, as he led all players with 29 points by converting on 12 out of his 17 field goal attempts. Carr made his only three-pointer in this incredible offensive display while executing all four of his free throw attempts.
Senior guard Steffen Davis poured in 12 points of his own, but struggled from three-point land, making two out of 10 three-pointers in the contest.
None of the other Rams besides Carr made more than four shots, as Davis and Carr took 32 of the team’s 59 shot attempts. The Rams did spread the ball around, but no one else really got into a solid rhythm aside from Carr.
This was either due to an inability of some of the Rams to get the ball with open space to shoot or to generate and create shots on their own.
Rams sophomore guard Thomas Lang and senior forward Gavin McTavish both made three shots a piece, but neither one of them had more than seven total shots for the Rams.
No matter what the Rams tried, the Golden Knights seemed to always have an answer to match the Rams.
Despite starting out the season 0-2, the Rams still have plenty of time to turn their season around. However, the Rams will not be playing in front of the friendly confines of their home again until December 2.
Up next for the Rams is a trip to face Holy Family in Philadelphia, Pa., Wednesday evening, Nov. 15, at 8:00 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com