The Rams (12-15, 9-10 MEC) got an impressive and timely 71-59 road win Thursday evening against the Golden Eagles (9-16, 8-11 MEC) of the University of Charleston.
In what was a rather low-scoring first half, the Rams led 31-24 at the break. The defense was clearly present, as the Golden Eagles shot just 24 percent (6-25) from the field.
It was bad enough the Golden Eagles were not shooting well, but they turned the ball over 22 times to the Rams’ 14 turnovers. When shooters struggle, turning the ball over did not help the Golden Eagles’ shooters get into the good rhythm that they needed to keep up with the Rams.
They would need that rhythm as the Rams came out firing in the second half. Led mainly by junior guard Morgan Arden (game-best 25 points) and senior guard Cara Mason (14 points), the Rams ran past the Golden Eagles to the tune of a 21-12 run that blew the game wide open for the Rams.
However, the Golden Eagles would not quit and showed great fight for the home crowd. They outscored the Rams 23-18 in the fourth quarter. A layup by Anna Hayton with 1:18 to play trimmed the Rams’ lead to 10 at 66-56, but Arden put the team on her back much like she had all night long, responding with a jump shot and making two free throws in the closing seconds to preserve the road win.
Arden did more than just score though. She posted four rebounds, two steals, and one assist, having a great all-around game.
Junior guard Kayla Tibbs provided a nice spark with her 13 point display as well.
The Golden Eagles did out-rebound the Rams 33-25, but again it was the volume of 22 turnovers that doomed their hopes of mounting a serious comeback.
Despite the win, the Rams shot just a pedestrian 40 percent (24-60) from the floor, with a 30 percent (3-10) performance from three-point range. They did make up for their poor shooting with their intense defensive effort and going an uncharacteristic 19-25 from the foul line.
The Golden Eagles really could not generate much of anything offensively until it was too late, as they shot 33.3 percent (17-51) on their field goal attempts. From three-point distance, they shot just 21.4 percent (3-14). Their main source of offense was their free throw shooting, as they shot 22-24 (91.7 percent).
This proved to be insufficient though to make up for their poor shooting.
After the game, through email, Coach Jenna Eckleberry of the Rams talked about where the Rams played well in and struggled in:
“Great team effort on defense. Played a complete 40 minutes. We struggled in letting Charleston shoot too many free throws. We attacked them on offense well and did a good job of spreading them out and allowing our guards to create and get to the basket.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown with West Virginia State, Eckleberry said:
“[We have to] Defend the three and contain dribble penetration!”
With the win, the Rams are currently seventh in the Mountain East Conference standings, trailing West Virginia State by just a game.
In a game that could determine their seeding in the Mountain East Conference tournament in the beginning of March, the Rams travel to face West Virginia State Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. showdown.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org