Shepherd women’s basketball uses third quarter surge to pull away from Shaw

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Junior guard Kari Lankford (22), pictured here last season, and the Rams return home with a 2-0 record thanks to two stellar offensive performances. (Photo Courtesy of Shepherd University's Athletics Department).

The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team pushed their record to 2-0 on the young season with another win in the CIAA MEC Conference Challenge in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sunday afternoon, taking down the Shaw University Bears (0-2) by an 85-61 score. 

In the first half, the Rams did not shoot badly at 41.9 percent (13-31), but had trouble pulling away from the Bears, who shot a near identical 41.7 percent (15-36) from the floor. 

With the game tied at a 30-30 score, the Rams went on an important 7-4 run to close out the half. Sophomore guard Lauren Reed knocked in a three-pointer, while junior guard Kari Lankford and senior guard Morgan Arden converted on two layup attempts to give the Rams a 37-34 edge going into the break. 

Despite the Rams’ success offensively, they had trouble pulling away from the Bears.  

Part of this was due to the Rams’ inability to stop the Bears’ LaQuisha Taylor, poured in 28 points to lead all scorers in the contest. Taylor had 12 points in the first half and 16 points in the second half, as she was a tremendous factor that the Rams had great trouble containing during the whole game.  

The Rams’ inability to guard the paint was also a large factor, as the Bears scored on countless layups in the first half. However, it was not just the first half that the Bears lived in the paint. For the game, the Bears had 44 points in the paint, getting inside whenever they seemed to want. 

An identical 44 points were scored by the Rams as well, however, so the Bears did not have as large of an advantage in this area as they would have liked. 

In the third quarter, the Rams blew the game wide open by outscoring the Bears 32-15. The Rams got all aspects of their offense clicking, scoring inside and out.  

The Rams, after knocking down three three-pointers in the first half, made five three-pointers in the second half, including three in the quarter that helped expand their lead. 

Their offensive success gave the Bears all kinds of frustration and doubt. The Bears threw the kitchen sink at the Rams, but could not make the necessary adjustments defensively to contain the Rams’ potent attack offensively. 

Arden and Lankford combined for 43 points by scoring 23 and 20 points, respectively, to help bring home the win. 

Senior guard Tiffanny McKinney and junior guard Kayla Tibbs helped balance the scoring by contributing 13 points a piece for the Rams.  

After getting outrebounded by seven in Saturday’s game, the Rams took the rebounding effort to heart by winning the battle 40-34 this time around, helping to control the game.  

Freshman forward Sydney Clayton made great contributions in this department by pulling down eight rebounds, the most on the Rams.  

Overall, for the game, the Rams made over half of their field goal attempts by making shooting 33 out of 64 (51.6 percent) from the floor. 

The Bears did not have as great of a day offensively, shooting just 42.2 percent (27-64) as a team, including going an abysmal 16.7 percent (3-18) from three-point range. 

Defensively, the Rams forced the Bears into 22 turnovers that led to 21 points off of turnovers, near the margin of victory.  

The Rams’ three-point shooting, which was very prolific on Saturday afternoon against Winston-Salem State, was not as effective, but they still managed to knock down eight out of 18 attempts from downtown, good enough for a 44.4 percentage for the game. 

Chelsea Long had a solid performance for the Bears as well, as she totaled 10 points and eight rebounds in the contest. 

After the game, through text messages, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, expressed how pleased she was to see her team come away with two wins on the road to open the season. 

“We were focused and ready to go. We faced adversity in both games and was [were] able to pull away and stay together as a team. Anytime you can go on the road and win two games, it[‘]s a great sign of being disciplined and [having] great leadership.” 

Eckleberry also addressed how the Rams were able to score 44 points in the paint. 

“We played great defense and that lead [to] transition points for us. We also attacked the hoop well when our outside shots weren[‘]t falling.  

In anticipation of Tuesday’s home opener against Goldey-Beacom at 6:00 p.m. in Shepherdstown, W.Va., in the Butcher Center, Eckleberry described how anxious the team is. 

“It’s going [to] feel great. Our girls are ready to be back on our home court [T]tuesday. We are ready to play in front of our community and fans!” 

Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at abrack02@rams.shepherd.edu