The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (4-1, 1-1 MEC) lost on the road by a 69-65 score in Charleston, W.Va., Monday evening, Nov. 20, to the University of Charleston Golden Eagles (2-1, 2-0 MEC).
After three quarters of play, there was no separation between these two teams, as the score was tied at 48-48 in a low-scoring affair.
This trend would continue in the fourth quarter, as both teams continued to exchange baskets and free throws.
Rams senior guard Morgan Arden (team-high 17 points and 7 assists) tied the game at 60-60 with 1:48 left in the game with a free throw, but from there on out the Golden Eagles would close out the game on a 9-5 run.
Golden Eagles sophomore guard Octavia Loll made a layup with 1:27 to play that would give the Golden Eagles the lead for good with a 62-60 score.
However, the Rams did have a chance to tie the game with two free throw attempts by junior forward Liz Moorman with 46 seconds to play. Moorman made the first free throw, but missed the second one, forcing the Rams to foul, as they were now down by a 62-61 score.
Golden Eagles senior guard Marissa Koob, Loll, and freshman guard Brooklyn Pannell would go on to make seven free throws in the final 30 seconds to preserve the 69-65 road victory.
Loll had the best game out of any Golden Eagle Monday evening, posting 18 points, six rebounds, and four assists. At times, the Rams simply had no answers for her.
Junior guard/forward Abby Watson of the Golden Eagles helped in the scoring department as well with 12 points and six rebounds, as she was another force the Rams had difficulty containing.
Pannell aided in balancing out the Golden Eagles’ scoring efforts with 11 points and six rebounds. Her four free throws inside of 13 seconds proved to be incredibly clutch for the Golden Eagles.
Sophomore forward/center Anna Hayton recorded a game-high nine rebounds to go along with five points for the Golden Eagles. Koob had a solid effort with her nine-point and six-rebound performance.
The Golden Eagles had five players pull down at least six rebounds, while the Rams had just two.
Moorman was a nice presence inside for the Rams, finishing with 12 points – the second-highest on the team – and two rebounds, but the free throw miss late proved to be crucial to the game’s outcome.
Rams senior guard Kayla Tibbs struggled from the field (3-10 FGA), but still managed to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds – tied for the team lead with junior guard Kari Lankford.
Lankford, who was named the MEC Player of the Week for her performances last week, filled up the stat sheet again by posting nine points, seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals. For the game, Lankford led the Rams in the assists and steals category.
Despite the loss, the Rams really did not play that bad, holding Charleston to 40.7 percent shooting (22-54) for the game. Where the Rams may have struggled defensively was on the three-point line, as the Golden Eagles did manage to find a small spark here by shooting 33.3 percent (6-18) as a team.
Offensively, the Rams made half of their three-pointers (5-10) and shot 45.5 percent from the field (25-55), so it may be difficult to see where they lost the game.
However, the Rams really lost this game in the rebounding, turnover, and free throw areas.
The Golden Eagles won the rebounding battle 43-27, which led to 12 second chance points for the Golden Eagles. That may not seem like a big deal, but when one considers that the Rams only had four second chance points themselves, then it becomes a larger issue.
The Rams got off 15 free throw attempts and made 10 of them (66.7%), but the Golden Eagles generated 29 free throw attempts and made 19 of them (65.5%), giving them a plus nine edge in this area.
Committing 14 turnovers that led to 13 points off of turnovers for the Golden Eagles did not help matters either for the Rams.
In a game where not much separated either side, these three key areas proved to be pivotal for the Rams.
One thing the Rams can hang their hat on after Monday evening’s loss would be how well they managed to force the Golden Eagles into turnovers. The Rams forced 22 Golden Eagles’ turnovers that led to 20 points to help bring the Rams’ offense to life.
However, the 65 points the Rams scored was the Rams’ second-lowest total of the season and second straight game scoring under 70 points.
Arden, after the game, through text messages, stated that the Rams could not get into a rhythm offensively.
“I think [we had] a difficult time getting into a groove and playing together at times. But overall we shot 46% from the field, and that should be good enough to win games.”
When asked if it was the Golden Eagles’ defensive pressure or another factor that limited the Rams’ offensive production, Arden had the following to say.
“[N]no, it wasn’t their pressure[,] it was their help side defense when we tried to drive [the ball to the basket].”
Despite a 4-1 start to the season, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, after the game, through text messages, explained that her team still has a number of areas to work on going forward.
“[W]we can improve in all aspects of the game, both offensively and defensively. The teams that continue to go and get better every day are the teams playing in [M]march. We need to play a full 40 minutes as a team every game. I would say we outplayed them for 35 out of the 40 mins[minutes] tonight. But the 5 mins[minute] stretch we had was not just bad[,] but really bad.”
For the Rams next game, which is on the road next Monday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m. at Millersville, Eckleberry explained what needs to happen for the Rams to come out with a road victory.
“[W]we need to play our game and not play to the opponents[‘] game. I love this team and I am excited to see how we win games [going forward].”
The Rams will have plenty of time to make improvements after this loss and get back on the right track in time for the Millersville game next Monday evening, Nov. 27.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org