The Shepherd Rams women’s basketball team (5-5, 2-4 MEC) struggled offensively and could not record a road win over the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals (3-6, 2-4 MEC) Saturday afternoon, Dec. 9, losing by a 63-56 score on the road in Wheeling, W.Va.
Knocking down shots was an issue for the Rams in this contest against the Cardinals. For the game, the Rams shot just 36.5 percent (23-63), as they could not get into a rhythm throughout most of the contest.
Senior guard Morgan Arden gave by far the most contributions offensively, posting 20 points and six assists, both of which led all players on either team. Arden shot the ball well (8-17) and helped keep the Rams in the game with her excellent play offensively.
Junior guard Kayla Tibbs provided a nice spark for the Rams from three-point range by making three out of her seven attempts from beyond the arc. Tibbs finished with 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists, serving as a nice complement to Arden.
The Cardinals made even less than shots than the Rams (19) and shot 39.6 percent (19-48) as a team for the game. This helped the Rams stay within striking distance entering the fourth quarter, trailing by just seven with a 47-40 deficit.
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals, however, got the Rams to miss several jump shots. Offensively, the Cardinals scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter, but found ways to score inside and outside that eventually overwhelmed the Rams.
Redshirt-junior guard Monica Burns of the Cardinals did not make a field goal in the fourth quarter, but made five out of her six free throw attempts to help the seal the win down the stretch for the Cardinals.
Burns led her team with 17 points despite struggling from the field (2-8). Getting to the free throw line greatly helped increase her point total, as Burns made 12 out of her 14 free throw attempts. Burns also brought down six rebounds and recorded two steals, showing she hurt the Rams in more than one way.
Junior forward Chenelle Moore had a very efficient shooting night (7-11) for the Cardinals, helping her finish with 15 points to couple with her eight rebounds, which tied for the team lead with senior guard Cassi Stein.
Not all came easy for the Cardinals, however, as a layup by junior guard Kari Lankford of the Rams trimmed the Cardinals lead to 60-54 with 1:33 to play, giving the Rams hope of mounting a late comeback.
On the Cardinals’ next possession, Burns turned the ball over. Lankford got the ball back, but missed a jump shot, forcing the Rams to foul with 57 seconds to play.
After Burns made one out of her two free throw attempts, Arden was fouled by Moore, sending her to the free throw line with 38 seconds to play.
Arden made both of her free throw attempts, but these would be the last points of the game for the Rams.
The Cardinals got the ball into Burns’ hands and was immediately fouled by the Rams. This time, Burns showed more composure and sank both of her free throw attempts to give the Cardinals a 63-56 lead with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Following a timeout by the Rams, sophomore guard Lauren Reed was subbed in and missed a three-pointer with 23 seconds left. The Rams chose not to foul, letting the Cardinals run the clock out to preserve the 63-56 victory.
The Rams did find a small spark from the three-point line by making 33.3 percent (6-18) of their shots from beyond the arc, but did not knock enough of them to help secure a road victory.
Scoring inside was a strength for the Rams to some degree. In the game, the Rams posted 32 points in the paint, showing a strong presence there.
After the game, the head coach of the Rams, Jenna Eckleberry, through text messages, said that this was a point of emphasis for the Rams.
“[W]we wanted to get some post up opportunities by the best match[up] up we had and we tried to take advantage of that,” Eckleberry said.
Where the Rams lost this game was at the free throw line and not being able to convert layup attempts, according to Eckleberry.
“The game was lost from the free throw line. [We shot] 44% for us and [they made] 80% for them and they shot 26 [free throw attempts] compared to our 9. [They] outscored us by 17 from the ft [free throw] line,” Eckleberry explained. “We missed a lot of easy shots. I think we missed 9 [nine] uncontested layups. We had opportunities to score and didn’t convert.”
The most points that the Rams scored came in the first quarter, as the Rams compiled 19 points. In the final three quarters, the Rams scored just seven, 14, and 16 points respectively. This made it increasingly vital to play good defense for the Rams to stay in the game, which they mostly did.
One area the Rams played particularly well in was the rebounding department, pulling down 40 rebounds to the Cardinals’ 35.
Despite the loss, Lankford had an impressive performance for the Rams. She shot the ball well by making four out of her nine shots and posted 10 points and 12 rebounds – which led all players – to finish with a double-double.
After the game, through text messages, Lankford described how she was able to grab the most rebounds in the game and how important it was for the Rams to win the rebounding battle as a team.
“I just try to crash the boards on every rebound. It limit[s] second chance points,” Lankford said.
When asked about if there was one thing that the Rams could take away positively from this game, Lankford believed the Rams Showed their competitive edge.
“Something positive to take away from this game is that we battled back and made it a two [-] possession game by getting stops and making plays,” Lankford said. “We need to be able to do that for 40 minutes.”
The Rams will have nine days to work on their layups and overall shooting, as their next game is not until next Monday, Dec. 18, as they will be playing at home in the Butcher Center in Shepherdstown W.Va., against Shippensburg. Gametime is at 5:30 p.m.
Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com