The Rams (6-11, 3-6 MEC) defeated the Blue Knights of Urbana University 81-66 in a Saturday afternoon road match up.
Getting off to a quick start was key in the Rams’ victory. Through the first half of play, the Rams led 48-29. Making over half their shots in the first half (19-of-35) set the tone for what would be a tremendous day offensively for the Rams.
Leading the charge for the Rams was senior guard Cara Mason. She hurt the Blue Knights’ defense in various ways all game long, posting a double-double with 12 points and a game and career-best 14 assists. Mason found her open teammates with ease, setting them up with great shots.
There were a variety of Mason’s teammates that stepped up in big ways as well. Senior forward Kristina Prange, sophomore guard Kari Lankford, and junior guard Tiffany McKinney all scored 12 points as well. Junior guard Kayla Tibbs had 11 points to further give headaches to the Blue Knights’ defense. The Blue Knights were unsure of who to try and lock down on defense, as the Rams displayed a great arsenal of scorers that scored in the paint and from three-point range.
Senior forward Liz Myers of the Rams had a versatile game. She hurt the Blue Knights with her 11 points, but it was her defensive presence that had an even bigger impact on the game. She had six rebounds and a game-best four blocked shots. The Blue Knights started to think twice driving the lane where Myers was defending.
Free throws by Lankford, Mason, and freshman guard Lauren Reed iced the game for the Rams down the stretch when the Blue Knights were in desperation mode.
The defensive miscues the Blue Knights suffered deflated their comeback attempts. Needing to score in a hurry, the Blue Knights proved unable to execute for large stretches of the game offensively. Shooting just 36.5 percent from the field for the game was not going to cut it on a day when they kept faltering defensively. Their 2-of-12 performance from three-point territory did not help their case either, especially when they were trying to cut into the Rams’ lead.
In spite of forcing 14 Rams’ turnovers that led to 22 points for the Blue Knights, they turned the ball over at critical junctures themselves. Their 16 turnovers led to 21 points for the Rams, which would not help their comeback attempt. The reserve point production was also largely in the Rams’ favor, as they outscored the Blue Knights 37-21 in this department.
Morgan Lattimore and Stefanie Davis of the Blue Knights proved to be challenging for the Rams. They had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Their teammate Sylvia Hudson had 10 points and seven rebounds, hurting the Rams in a variety of ways.
In the contest, the Rams shot 45.8 percent (27-59), with an impressive 46.2 percent show from three-point range (6-13). Shepherd got to the line frequently, making 21-of-26.
The Blue Knights shot 36.5 percent (23-63). They struggled from three-point distance, shooting 16.7 percent (2-12). However, when they got to the free throw line, they often converted, as the team shot 18-of-21 there.
Urbana, despite the loss, did have a decisive edge in rebounding, winning 43-31.
After the game, Coach Eckleberry of the Rams talked about her team’s performance:
“We had a very well balanced scoring [effort] from the team with six players scoring in double figures. Having three players score [in] double figures off the bench was huge for us (Tiffany McKinney, Kristina Prange, and Kayla Tibbs).”
Coach Eckleberry believes the Rams’ balanced scoring was a large factor in the game’s outcome.
In terms of where Eckleberry believes the Rams are doing well at and could improve upon at this point in the season, she had the following to say:
“We are playing with a lot of energy and focusing on the game plan and executing better on offense. I think we can improve on unforced turnovers. Turnovers that lead to points for our opponent needs to be limited.”
Looking to build off the win, the Rams will attempt to knock off Notre Dame College Monday afternoon in a noon match up.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org