Shepherd opens men’s season in annual tournament
The annual Clarion Hotel and Conference Center tournament once again opens Shepherd’s basketball season.
The Rams will play Lock Haven and Kutztown of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference while the fourth team in the two-night event is Wheeling Jesuit of the Mountain East Conference.
After trailing West Virginia University by only 11 points at halftime in Sunday’s exhibition game at the Coliseum in Morgantown, Shepherd was shredded by the Mountaineers’ depth, turnover-producing defense and its many floor errors. The Mountaineers outscored the Rams, 69-31, in the second half to win going away, 109-60.
Shepherd is coming off a 20-10 record from last season, but lost two starters and its sixth man in Brantley Osborne, Kevin Jones and Marcus Pilgrim from the 2013-14 team.
The three returning starters are Morgan McDonald, Naim Muhammad and Austin Cunningham.
In the exhibition game against WVU, the Rams had 6-foot-6 Ryan McTavish and 6-foot-1 point guard Steffen Davis as the starters alongside McDonald, Muhammad and Cunningham.
Davis led the Shepherd scoring with 14 points and McDonald added 10 points, but the Rams were steadily unwound by their 27 turnovers, including 20 steals by the Mountaineers.
Gavin McTavish, Skyler Roman and A.J. Carr all played at least 15 minutes against the Mountaineers. Ochae Bynum, Mike Reed and Garett Burkhead all played eight minutes.
Shepherd made its free throws in the exhibition, but got outrebounded, 53-29, by the much bulkier and much taller Mountaineers.
The tournament opener tonight (Friday, November 14) has Kutztown facing Wheeling Jesuit at 5:30 p.m. and the Rams going against Lock Haven at 7:30 p.m.
Lock Haven is coming off its best season in a decade or more and finished the 2013-14 season with a 17-10 overall record and a 10-6 conference mark. Kutztown had a 10-17 record last season and was 8-8 in its conference games.
Wheeling Jesuit went 15-13 overall last season and has been selected in a preseason poll by the 12 Mountain East Conference coaches to finish fourth this year.
On Saturday, it will be Lock Haven playing Wheeling Jesuit at 4 p.m. and Shepherd facing Kutztown at about 6 p.m.
When Mountain East Conference games come to the schedule, West Liberty is again the preseason choice to be the 2014-15 champions. The Hilltoppers are ranked No. 1 in the country by several media sources after they reached the Division II national championship game last season.
Fairmont, Charleston and Wheeling Jesuit round out the top four guesses by the Mountain East coaches. Shepherd was selected to finish sixth by the coaches.
The Rams have no fewer than six new faces on their 13-player squad. McDonald, both McTavishes and Muhammad are all in the 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-6 range. First-year players Davis, both McTavishes and Carr will be seen for the first time at the Butcher Center. Roman returns from another leg injury that quickly cut short his season in 2013-14. Roman will play plenty of minutes as the first or second player off Shepherd’s bench.
West Virginia and its turnover-causing defense are behind the Rams. Now its the Bald Eagles, Bears and Cardinals coming to the Butcher Center for two nights of doubleheader basketball.