The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (4-0, 1-0 MEC) kept their perfect record intact with a 63-55 comeback victory on the road in Institute, W.Va., against the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets (0-3, 0-1 MEC) on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 18.
In the first half, the Rams’ offense was never able to get into a groove, as the team shot just 22.58 percent (7-31) from the floor. From three-point range in particular the Rams struggled, shooting just 23.1 percent (3-13) in this department.
Finishing around the basket was a struggle for the Rams, as seven layups were missed in the first quarter alone. Keeping control of the ball thanks to the pressure of the Yellow Jackets’ defense was also an issue, with the Rams turning the ball over seven times in the second quarter alone.
Senior guard Morgan Arden finished the game with 21 points to lead all scorers, but shot 3-for-9 in the first half and had just eight points. Senior guard Tiffany McKinney was the only other Ram to make more than shot in the first half, as she shot 2-for-6 from the field to finish with four points in the first half.
At halftime, however, the Rams were only down 34-25 thanks to their solid defensive effort. The Rams held the Yellow Jackets to 36.36 percent shooting in the first half (12-33). The Yellow Jackets could not find their stroke from three-point range, making just two out of its twelve three-point attempts.
This was also perhaps partially due to the fact that the head coach of the Yellow Jackets, Charles Marshall, continued to substitute four to five players out all at once every few minutes. This may have prevented many of the Yellow Jackets’ shooters from getting into a rhythm, but it did provide the team with fresh legs throughout the game.
In the first half, eight different Yellow Jackets made at least one shot, but still could not pull away from the Rams.
Following the game, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, through text messages, explained her team’s struggles offensively.
“[W]we shot poorly in the first half [by shooting] 22%. And that is going [to] happen in games. We bounced back with 38 in the second half.”
The 38 points the Rams scored in the second half was largely due to their ability to finish inside the paint near the basket by converting layups, something they struggled heavily in doing so in the first half. This helped open up Shepherd’s offense, as shooters now had space to knock down mid-range and a few three-point shots.
In the second half, the Rams shot 45.16 percent (14-31) from the field, helping them to take control of the game.
Trailing 50-44 with 8:50 to play, the Rams proceeded to go on a 19-5 run to close out the game.
The Rams took the lead for good with a clutch jump shot from McKinney that gave the Rams a 54-52 lead with 5:40 to play, as the Rams played lock down defense from there on out to preserve the 63-55 road victory.
As a team in the second half, the Yellow Jackets made just 21.21 percent of their shots (7-33) and were outscored 38-21. This led to a decrease in the team’s overall shooting percentage for the game, as the Yellow Jackets shot just 28.8 percent (19-66). From three-point range in particular the Yellow Jackets struggled, making just 12 percent of their three-pointers (3-25).
When the Yellow Jackets got to the free throw line, they executed well, making 14-of-18 at the foul line (77.8%).
Senior guard Aurreshae Hines had 11 total points in the game to lead the Yellow Jackets, but had just five points in the second half – the most of any player on the team. Teammate Denisha Bowman, a junior forward, had a near double-double with eight points and nine rebounds, but it was not enough to hold off the Rams.
Jasmine Davis, a senior forward, was the Yellow Jackets’ second-leading scorer with nine points. Grace made three out of her four shots from the field.
For the game, the Rams shot 33.9 percent (21-62) and finished 5-for-19 from three-point range (26.3%). What helped keep the game close was the Rams’ free throw shooting, as the Rams made just 16-of-24 from the foul line (66.7%).
This was a game that the Rams really had to grind out, with both teams battling extremely hard. Each team had 46 rebounds and 14 turnovers, helping to prevent either team from gaining much of an advantage on the scoreboard.
Junior guard Kari Lankford had a performance to remember for the Rams, playing an all-around complete game by scoring 11 points (1-5 FGA) and coming away with 15 rebounds, six assists, and six steals – all of which were the most by any one player in the game. She also got to the free throw line 15 times, making nine of them (60%).
Lankford made her presence felt on both ends of the court with her intense and impactful effort.
McKinney had eight key points in the second half to finish the game with 12 points, the second most on the team. She also had a near double-double by compiling nine rebounds in the contest.
Junior forward Liz Moorman was efficient from the floor for the Rams, scoring 10 points by making half of her shots (5-10) and pulling down four rebounds, three of which were offensive.
No Yellow Jacket made more than one shot in the second half, a testament to the Rams’ strong defensive play that Eckleberry praised after the game.
“[I]it was a total team effort on defense. We grinded it out. Holding a team like [West Virginia] wv [S]state to 21 points in the second half is very hard to do. Our girls showed so much heart and will to win.”
When asked about what it says about her team to be able to come back and win on the road in a hostile environment early in the season, Eckleberry highlighted the team’s unity.
“[W]we are a team that sticks together and doesn’t give up on each other. We have confidence in one another. It is early, but I like the way our team faced adversity.”
On Monday, Nov. 20, the Rams will be looking to push their record to 5-0 on the season when they take on Charleston on the road in Charleston, W.Va., at 5:30 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com