It was a tough night offensively for the Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (8-7, 4-5 MEC), as they fell on the road to the Notre Dame Falcons (11-5, 7-2 MEC) by an 85-52 score on Thursday evening, Jan. 12, in South Euclid, Ohio.
Taking care of the basketball was a particular issue for the Rams Thursday evening. Against the Falcons, the Rams turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 27 points off of turnovers for the Falcons.
Whenever the Rams did not the turn the ball over and got shot opportunities off, they often times did not convert. Notre Dame held Shepherd to a 37.3 shooting percentage (19-for-51) for the game, not allowing Shepherd’s offense to get into any sort of rhythm.
Shepherd’s three-point shooting was virtually non-existent as well. As a team, Shepherd made just 30.0 percent (3-of-10) of its three-point attempts.
Jenna Eckleberry, the head coach of the Rams, via text messages, gave her thoughts after the game on what the Falcons did so well defensively to cause the Rams to turn the ball over so many times, leading to easy baskets on the other end.
“[T]they [Notre Dame] play extremely hard and cover up for each other,” Eckleberry explained. “They were flying after us and we were rushing our shots or rushing to get rid of the ball instead of being patient and attacking the hoop.”
The only players to reach double figures in scoring for the Rams were senior guard Morgan Arden and freshman forward Sydney Clayton.
Arden had a rough shooting night (7-for-18) but still found a way to finish second in scoring for the Rams on the night with her 17-point outing. The Rams’ star guard also had a game-high seven rebounds. Arden’s four assists tied her with Falcons’ sophomore guards Marisa Finazzo and Mackenzie Meckes for the most in the game.
Keeping control of the basketball was a challenge for Arden, however, as she turned the ball over six times against the Falcons’ defense.
Clayton had an efficient shooting night (7-for-13) for the Rams, leading her team with 18 points against the Falcons’ defense in 28 minutes of action. Her six-rebound total was tied for second in the game behind Arden’s seven-rebound outing.
Following the game, via text messages, Clayton described how she was able to be a reliable option offensively for the Rams on a night when they struggled as a team offensively.
“I was able to stay consistent all night by my teammates continuously feeding me the ball along with some second chance points,” Clayton said.
Clayton and Arden both made seven field goal attempts, but no other Ram made more than two of their field goal attempts. Sophmore guard Lauren Reed made both of her three-point field goal attempts, but did not get any other shots off against Notre Dame. Senior forward Jazmyne Howard also made two shots, but posted just five points overall in the game.
These struggles offensively would help the Rams fall behind early, and coupled by a 56.25 shooting percentage (18-for-32) by the Falcons in the first half, the Rams found themselves trailing at halftime by a 46-18 score.
The Falcons essentially had all of the points that they would need to come out with a victory already through just two quarters of play.
Offensively, Notre Dame played exceptionally well by shooting 54.1 percent (33-for-61) and 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) from three-point range. The Falcons were able to keep the Rams’ defense honest by registering 32 points in the paint as well.
The Falcons displayed a balanced scoring attack against the Rams’ defense, as five Falcons reached double figures in scoring.
Sophomore guard Marisa Finazzo had an exceptional all-around performance against the Rams. Finazzo led the Falcons in scoring with 14 points by shooting a reliable 5-for-7 from the floor. Finazzo additionally tied Arden and Meckes with a game-high four assists.
Senior forward Kim Cook also got into a good groove against the Rams’ defense, finishing with 12 points and in a tie for the second most rebounds in the game with six.
No one else on the court had as good of a night from three-point range than Falcons sophomore guard Kyleigh Ramlow, however, who went 3-for-5 from beyond the three-point line to help her register 12 points in Thursday evening’s game.
No Falcons’ player took more than nine shots on the evening, showing how well the Falcons moved and shared the ball against the Rams’ defense. Their patience and poise was truly something to behold.
Clayton gave her perspective on what made Notre Dame so difficult to defend.
“What made it hard to defend [N]notre [D]dame was having to fly everywhere [defensively],” Clayton explained. “They’re a good team and they make the [opposing] defense work.”
With such a large deficit to overcome by the halfway point, the Rams were never able to get back into the game in the second half. The Rams lost the second half by just a 39-34 margin, but this effort came a little too late.
The Rams attempted just 10 three-point shots against the Falcons’ defense in Thursday evening’s loss. Eckleberry explained if this was a part of the game plan or a result of falling behind early and trying to work the ball inside more to chip away at the deficit.
“The game plan was to go inside with the pass and dribble,” Eckleberry said. “We thought we could take advantage of it. We also wanted to defend the [three] 3 [point line] better. We knew coming in they were averaging 30 points per game from the [three] 3 [point line]. We didn’t do a good job of that.”
Rebounding was another strength of the Falcons. The Falcons pulled down 37 rebounds compared to 25 for the Rams. However, this led to just a marginal 7-5 edge for the Falcons in second chance points.
On the plus side for the Rams defensively, they did generate 19 Falcons’ turnovers. Twelve of these turnovers came in the second half, as the Rams took out their frustrations offensively on the defensive end.
Producing these Falcons’ turnovers led to 18 points for the Rams on the evening to help produce some offensive output, but it could not make up for an overall poor shooting night offensively.
In the past six games now, the Rams have failed to score at least 70 points five times, marking a frustrating stretch offensively.
Currently, however, the Rams are still in sixth place in the Mountain East Conference (MEC) standings, just one game behind West Liberty and Charleston.
The Urbana University Blue Knights are in third place right now in the MEC and two games ahead of Shepherd. The Rams will have a chance to cut that margin to one game when they travel to Urbana, Ohio, on Saturday, Jan. 13, to square off against Urbana at 2 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the sports editor of The Picket. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org