Jones, McDonald Rams blue collar workmanship
The majority of Shepherd’s basketball games are spiced with three-pointers, an uninterrupted flow of scoring and the work ethic needed to win.
In the Rams’ 72-57 conference success against visiting Urbana (Ohio), there was a blue collar stamp on the outcome. Instead of fast breaks and crowd-pleasing dunks, the Rams donned their coveralls, carried their lunch pails and put in a workmanlike performance to put away the struggling Blue Knights.
With just six games left in the season, the Rams were still in second place in the Mountain East Conference and had extended their overall record to a best-in-years 16-6 mark.
The game’s tempo was a quiet one even though Shepherd tried its usual game-opening, fullcourt pressure.
Urbana’s shriveled 0-21 record could have caused creeping complacency in the Shepherd ranks, but it didn’t.
Instead, Shepherd forged a 10-point run to move to a 20-10 lead midway through the opening half. Another eight straight Shepherd points enabled the Rams to enjoy a 36-22 advantage by halftime.
Urbana actually never had any lead at all, and only had the score tied twice in the early going.
With its iron-clad halftime lead, the Rams continued to pay attention to the industrial shop business and finished the night making 51 percent of their field goal attempts.
It was Austin Cunningham’s 13 first-half points and Morgan McDonald’s 10 second-half points that helped keep Urbana from ever sniffing the aroma-elixir of a a first-seen victory for the entire 2013-14 season.
The Blue Knights tried their best, but when Kevin Jones had two consecutive in-close scores with about nine minutes remaining, the Shepherd lead had swelled to 16 points and Knighthood had been banished for good.
The Shepherd lead was methodically worked to 26 points with only 2:26 to play before Urbana quickly made the final count a little more cosmetic-pleasing with a salvo of points against a fivesome of Rams’ reserves.
All the Shepherd starters — McDonald, Jones, Cunningham, Brantley Osborne and Naim Muhammad — had gotten their hands dirty and their overalls stained with their hard work, rebounding and collective defense.
It was a blue collar game for the Rams.
And it was a blue and yellow win that kept Shepherd near the surface of the conference standings.