On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 19, the Shepherd Rams men’s basketball team (16-10, 12-8 MEC) displayed a strong defensive effort in its 75-59 victory over the University of Charleston Golden Eagles (14-12, 10-10 MEC) at home in the Butcher Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Both teams were coming off a big victory, Shepherd with an overtime win over West Virginia State, and Charleston took down the Mountain East Conference top seed Fairmont State, earlier in the week.
From the opening tip, both teams got after it, as the Rams did their best to contain the Golden Eagles guards. In the first half, Charleston made it hard for Shepherd to get inside the paint, forcing Shepherd to take shots from the outside.
Senior Steffen Davis, dubbed “Steffen Downtown Davis,” by the game announcer, knocked down two three-pointers in the first couple of minutes. Davis finished with 16 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 4-for 9, from the three.
Midway through the first half, the Golden Eagles switched into a 3-2 zone on defense, applying pressure to the Rams all around the perimeter. Charleston’s pressure provided them with more opportunities on offense and to play at a high pace.
It was a great game to watch because, both teams knew how important this game was since they were close in the MEC’s ranking. They were going back and forth, as the Rams would knock down a shot, and Charleston would answer right back.
The Golden Eagles were led by their senior guard Kier Anderson, who had a couple of flashy buckets in the first half. Anderson finished with 19 points, shooting 6-for-13 from the field.
Charleston would go into the half with the lead, up by five points. Shepherd Head Coach Justin Namolik said that he told his team to “just keep shooting” and to also dribble into the passing lanes.
In the second half, both teams came out with great intensity, Charleston still running their 3-2 zone. Shepherd on the other hand played man-to-man, and switched junior Devin Smith on Anderson to try to contain him.
Sophomore Thomas Lang started to come along in the second half, as he went 0-for-6, from three in the first half. He still managed to finish with 16 points, and five assists.
“We started going inside and attacking gaps, and that allowed us to create some space for us and knock down shots,” Lang said.
That’s exactly what Shepherd did too, attacked the inside getting into the paint, and also had good ball movement. On defense they forced 14 turnovers, and turned them into 18 points.
The Rams second half adjustments were on point, as they started to pull away with the lead midway through the second half. The Rams were able to get stops on defense, as Charleston started to go cold shooting.
Shepherd led by as much as 15 points with 4:50 remaining left in the game. Derrick McKnight, came off the bench and added 14 points, hitting a few clutch three’s throughout the game.
The Rams would prevail, giving them a big boost of confidence going into the final week of the season. They travel to Glenville State, Wednesday, Feb 21, to take on the Pioneers.
Justin Cole is a Sports Writer for the Picket, he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org