Pilgrim, Osborne just a little wiser
After it finally was able to shed the muddled psychological carryover from a loss to the nation’s No. 1 ranked team (West Liberty), Shepherd showed visiting University of Virginia at Wise a definitive 60-point second half scoring splurge.
he Mountain East Conference game was more than a tale of two completely different halves of men’s basketball.
Shepherd was without much merit in the first half. But then the Rams outgunned Virginia-Wise by 25 points in the second session to win going away, 88-76, and maintain second place in the 12-school league.
It was a whopping 60-point second half that carried the Rams to their 11-3 overall record and a win that placed them at 6-2 in their conference.
The wholly consistent part of the Shepherd hustle-stained effort was the scoring of Marcus Pilgrim. It was Pilgrim putting on a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress night with enough first-half scoring to keep the Rams from being swept away down the frigid Potomac River before they righted themselves in a torrid second half display that was orchestrated by Pilgrim and the suddenly on-fire Brantley Osborne.
Shepherd trailed by 11 points at the half. Osborne, who came to Saturday night with about a 20-points per game average, had not even scored until there were only 30 seconds left before the first half closed.
But then Osborne strafed Virginia-Wise with 20 second-half points.Pilgrim kept on scoring, in fact finally getting Shepherd the lead at 61-57 with successive three-pointers.
Once they had finally submerged all of the ever-shrinking Virginia-Wise lead, the Rams marched to the victory with excellent free throw shooting in the final four minutes where they wore a path to the foul line.
All-out Shepherd hustle that had brought the eager crowd’s lusty voices into play had erased all of Virginia-Wise’s lead after nine minutes of the second half.
Spicing the Rams’ victory stew was the defensive rebounding from forward Kevin Jones. When it was swallowing the Cavalier lead, Shepherd had only a six-player rotation of Pilgrim, Osborne, Jones, Morgan McDonald, Naim Muhammad and Austin Cunningham. Those six players made Shepherd’s reinstituted full-court pressure defense a useful tool because it further fatigued the bench-bare Cavaliers and helped Pilgrim, Osborne and company find mostly unhurried and uncontested shots.
The raucous second half made people forget Virginia-Wise’s 9-0 lead, the scant number of rebounds the Rams could claim in the opening section and the 41-28 halftime deficit Shepherd saw.
Pilgrim and Osborne had given the smallish Butcher Center crowd reasons to become full-throated. And the people responded with loud cheering as the Rams rode off with another MEC victory that kept them behind only undefeated West Liberty in the standings.