From beginning to end, Phillips too much for Shepherd
From Shepherd’s standpoint, the cold-shooting Rams could never discard the nasty start they had to an eventual 73-66 loss to a West Virginia State team that was much better than its early-season record showed.
The Yellow Jackets leaped ahead to an 8-0 lead. And then the near-desperate Rams had only six points in the first 10 minutes. Three starters would combine to go 0-for-11 from the field in the arctic-like first half where the Rams once trailed by 18 points.
West Virginia State, coming to the Butcher Center with an 0-5 record and a 40-point loss at home against West Liberty, had a totally dominant point guard in Dominic Phillips. Phillips had a hand in most of the Yellow Jacket scoring when the opening half ended with Shepherd actually fortunate to be trailing only 43-31 . . . because it had made 29 percent of its field goal tries, was being outrebounded and had to witness to West Virginia State’s 18-for-35 shooting from the floor.
Without Morgan McDonald’s 15 points, Shepherd would have already been buried under the tonnage of its problems.
Some sort of spark was needed right from the begining of the second half. Or the Rams were a beaten team.
McDonald made a three-pointer and the Rams tried to a 2-3 halfcourt zone in order to keep Phillips from penetrating at will through their defense.
As the half lurched along for several minutes, Shepherd was more accurate from the floor. And Phillips had been slowed, not getting as many points or valuable assists. With about 12 minutes remaining, Shepherd finally measured its deficit at 51-42 — the first time it had been below double figures since the early going.
Throughout the last half, when the Yellow Jackets did miss Shepherd claimed all those defensive rebounds.
And the Rams reached the bonus, 1-and-1 situation at the foul line with fully 9:45 to play.
As the clock showed less than five minutes to play, McDonald’s three-pointer shaved the Yellow Jacket lead to only 60-57. Four straight points by Skyler Roman finally got the Rams all the way back from the quicksand they had been in from the very outset. It was tied at 63.
But just as suddenly, Dimitrios Jelen-Joy had the Yellow Jackets back in front with his crucial three-pointer.
Jelen-Joy’s points were the thrust of a 10-3 West Virginia State run that closed the game in its favor.
Phillips had delivered 24 points and seven assists in his 34 minutes. McDonald had countered with his 23 points and seven rebounds, but the Yellow Jacket supporting cast had shot better than the other Rams . . . and the visitors had their first win of the season against five losses. Shepherd, then with a 4-2 record, went 11-for-29 in the second half, not brushfire hot but more useful than the 11-for-38 it showed in the dismal first half.