Rebounds, attention to defense move Rams past Bobcats
SHEPHERDSTOWN — With the shot clock becoming a concern, a West Virginia Wesleyan player attempts a 16-foot shot. He misses, and his four teammates quickly run back to the defensive end. A Shepherd player rebounds the off-line shot, and the Rams move methodically to their offensive end.
That’s an often-repeated scene from Shepherd’s 71-54 win over the Bobcats last Wednesday, when the Rams had 44 rebounds and West Virginia Wesleyan had 22, including only three offensive rebounds.
The Bobcat strategy meant Shepherd couldn’t manufacture any fast break points, but the visitors to the Butcher Center couldn’t get any second-chance points or draw many fouls against the Rams.
Shepherd’s comfortable victory was the last game of an extended six-game home stand the Rams had, to begin the 2018-19 season. Those six early-season games gave the Rams five wins and showed them with a 2-1 record in conference outings.
The quickly-played game showed the teams shooting only a combined 17 free throws between themselves. The Bobcats went 3-for-10 and Shepherd was 4-for-7, giving the foul line little responsibility for which team won and which team lost.
Reserves contributed practically nothing to the Bobcat cause — scoring little, rebounding less and making no defensive difference at all.
Shepherd’s reserves were factors in the 17-point win with Jon Preston fetching 12 rebounds and notching 10 points, Emmanuel Aghayere getting six points in nine minutes, and Cam Stephens being active on both ends.
Actually, West Virginia Wesleyan stayed as close as it did, because its starters didn’t mind playing defense, had enough fundamentals to stay clear of turnovers for the most part and could find spurts of points at far-apart intervals.
Nothing came easily or comfortably for the Bobcat offense. Lacking the quickness of the Shepherd defenders clinging to them, meant a steady diet of forcing their way through their cutting offense and trying no less than 30 three-point shots, which were rewarded with only nine successes.
Throughout, the Shepherd players were freed for more comfortable shot-attempts that helped Winston Burgess to 17 points, Thomas Lang to 14 and Derek McKnight to 11 points. McKnight had three of his assist passes go to Burgess for dunks.
Glenville in Gilmer County was the destination for Shepherd’s first road game.
The Rams downed the more mechanical Bobcats by gaining an eight-point lead at the half, and then extending that advantage to 13 points, with a seven-point spurt midway through the second half. West Virginia Wesleyan did not have the means to catch them.