The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (7-6, 3-4 MEC) played well on both ends of the court in their 78-66 home win over the Concord University Mountain Lions (4-6, 2-5 MEC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Thursday evening, Jan. 4.
Offensively, Rams senior guard Morgan Arden came to play. In the first half, Arden totaled 21 points, followed by 19 in the second half. This culminated in a 40-point performance that set a Rams’ record for the most points scored in a single game.
This 40-point total surpassed the prior single-game-record total of 37 points, which was held by Arden and Shepherd Hall-of-Famer Shery Price.
Also against Concord, Arden made seven out of her eleven three-point field goal attempts, which tied a Rams’ record for the most three-pointers made in a single game. Back on Feb. 26, 1999, former Ram Sandi Goulet made seven three-pointers against Alderson Broaddus.
After the game, via text messages, Arden, who shot 16-of-22 from the floor, commented on how she was able to get into such a good shooting rhythm and sustain it throughout Thursday evening’s contest against Concord.
“I had a rough couple days of practice. I just tried to go into the game and feel it out,” Arden explained. “I hit my first couple shots. I just tried to keep that going. My teammates kept feeding me the ball. They helped me get into a rhythm too.”
Despite Arden’s magical night, the Mountain Lions were able to keep the score close with the Rams. At halftime, the Rams were only winning by a 38-35 score, largely due to an inability to guard the paint.
The Mountain Lions, who finished with 38 points in the paint, continued to attack the inside of the Rams’ defense and found constant success with that in the first half.
Concord, however, could not keep the Rams out of the paint as well, as the Rams posted 36 points in the paint themselves on the night.
Giving up second chance points and turning the ball over really doomed the Mountain Lions’ chances in this particular contest as well.
Shepherd outrebounded Concord by a 46-32 margin. Keeping the Rams from getting offensive rebounds was a great struggle for the Mountain Lions, as the Rams grabbed 21 offensive rebounds that would lead to 23 second chance points on the night.
Winning the turnover battle has been a struggle for the Rams at times this season, but not against the Mountain Lions Thursday evening. The Mountain Lions had seven steals and played a hand in generating 12 Rams’ turnovers, but the Rams displayed even greater defensive intensity and aggression. Shepherd recorded 10 steals as a team and forced the Mountain Lions into 19 turnovers.
Arden elaborated on how important it was to come out on top plus seven in the turnover battle against the Mountain Lions.
“Coach [Eckleberry] told us this was going to be a one[-]possession game. We made it a point to take care of the ball as best we could every possession,” Arden said. “We were able to force Concord into a lot of turnovers in our 1-3-1 zone [defense]. Kari [Lankford] does a great job defending at the top and she really got us going.”
As Arden mentioned, Rams junior guard Kari Lankford had a great impact defensively for Shepherd. Lankford generated a game-high five steals on the night on the defensive side for the Rams, but this was not the only area she excelled in.
Lankford additionally had game-highs of 11 rebounds and eight assists to go along with her four points, providing an invaluable outing for the Rams.
The head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, via text messages, also gave her thoughts on what factors enabled the Rams to generate a high amount of Mountain Lions’ turnovers and record numerous second chance points.
“[S]staying discipline[d] on defense and understanding personnel and what each player can do,” Eckleberry explained. “If you stop them from doing what they want, they will turn it over [by] trying to do something they aren’t comfortable with.”
The Mountain Lions did make things interesting by cutting the Ram’s lead to as little as one at a 38-37 score at the start of the second half, however. Unfortunately for the Mountain Lions, they were not able to take the lead because they could not guard Arden, who went off in the third quarter by scoring 15 points for the Rams.
This helped the Rams build an 11-point lead at a 62-51 score through three quarters of play that they would not look back on.
Eckleberry also described how the Rams can build off of this win.
“[We have to][T]take it game by game and focus on what will win each game,” Eckleberry explained. “We had a lot of positives today and we can do all those things every game.”
The Mountain Lions shot the ball well at 45.6 percent (26-57) when they did not manage to turn it over, but made too many errant decisions with the basketball to keep pace with the Rams. From beyond the arc, the Mountain Lions could not find their stroke, shooting 30.8 percent (4-13) from three-point distance. Concord did shoot very well at the free throw line, however, by making 83.3 percent (10-12) of their shots in this department.
Mountain Lions senior guard/forward Danielle Catron had the highest-point total for the Mountain Lions Thursday evening, posting 14 points by shooting very well (5-11) from the floor. Catron also had five rebounds against the Rams. Senior forward Heather Chapman had a versatile game for the Mountain Lions, recording 12 points, six rebounds, and four steals.
Sophomore forward Madison May filled up the stat sheet by compiling nine points, eight rebounds, six assists, and three blocks, hurting the Rams in numerous areas. Where May had difficulties in, however, was taking care of the basketball, as she committed a game-high seven turnovers.
As a team, the Rams shot decently at 42.3 percent (33-78), but excelled from three-point range by making 40.9 percent (9-22) from beyond the arc. The Rams only took three free throws on the night, but made all three of them.
No other Ram besides Arden made more than four shots. Junior guard Kayla Tibbs had a rough night shooting wise for the Rams (4-17), but did manage to finish with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Senior forward Jazmyne Howard had the third-highest point total for the Rams, finishing with eight points along with her six rebounds.
Currently, the Rams are sixth in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings. West Virginia Wesleyan, Wheeling Jesuit, and West Liberty all have a 3-4 record in the MEC as well, however, and are breathing right down the Rams’ necks.
On Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6, the Lady Rams will host UVa-Wise at 2 p.m. in the Butcher Center, where they will be attempting to win their second game in a row.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org