Shepherd women’s basketball comes up short against West Virginia Wesleyan 76-69

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Junior guard Kari Lankford (22), pictured here last season,, led all players with 23 points, seven assists, and tied for first with four steals with teammate Morgan Arden, a senior guard, in the Rams' loss to West Virginia Wesleyan Wednesday evening. (Photo Courtesy of Shepherd University's Athletics Department)

The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (4-3, 1-2 MEC) suffered a tough loss on the road in Buckhannone, W.Va., to the West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats (3-2, 2-1 MEC) on Wednesday, Nov. 29, falling by a 76-69 score. 

The Rams got off to a good start, causing turnovers on defense and creating open looks on offense. Junior guard Kari Lankford had an all-around solid performance by leading all players with 23 points, seven assists, and coming in a tie for first for most steals in the game (four) with teammate Morgan Arden, a senior guard. 

The opportunities were there for Shepherd – they had open looks, but just could not knock down their shots.

“We have had good looks and good shot attempts but they haven’t been falling like usual,” said head coach Jenna Eckleberry. ”I will say though, we score 69 points in a game, I think we should win. Bad shooting game or not, 69 points is enough to win the game.”

Shepherd shot 9-27 from the floor in the first half, and Wesleyan went 11-40. Both teams struggled in the scoring department.

Shepherd rallied back at the end of the first half to put the game within two at a 28-26 score.

In the second half, the Bobcats got out to an early lead thanks to senior forward Mari Stewart, who had 10 points in the second half.

The Rams went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 40-40 with 3:54 to play in the third quarter. Shepherd shot decently in the second half which helped spring their run, shooting 45.71 percent from the field and 28.57 percent from three-point range.

The fourth quarter was intense with both teams fighting hard and trading buckets with one another. Shepherd would keep the game within reach, but Wesleyan continued to maintain the lead throughout the quarter.

Senior Morgan Arden would give the Rams a boost on offense, knocking down 13 points in the second half, with most of the points coming in the fourth quarter.

Shepherd was down by three with 30 seconds remaining in the game thanks to a made free throw by Lankford that made the score 65-62.  

In dramatic fashion, junior Kayla Tibbs would knock down a clutch three-pointer to bring the Rams within one with five seconds remaining, as the score was now 69-68 in favor of the Bobcats.

Junior guard Tyra Hughes of the Bobcats was then immediately fouled by the Rams. Hughes made the first free throw to give the Bobcats a 70-68 lead, but then missed the second free throw. 

Lankford pulled down the rebound and was fouled by Hughes, who was being a little too aggressive on the play by trying to get the rebound.

With her team down by two with five seconds remaining, Lankford calmly knocked down the first free throw attempt to trim the Bobcats’ lead to one point at a 70-69 score, but missed the second one. 

Shepherd was forced to foul Wesleyan again as a result. The Bobcats would make their free throws and force Lankford into a turnover to give them the game and the 76-69 home victory.

The Lady Rams return to the court this Saturday, Dec. 2, at home to face the Glenville State Pioneers. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. in the Butcher Center.

Justin Cole is a Sports Writer for the Picket, He can be reached at: jcole07@rams.shepherd.edu