McDonald gets 1,000th career point as Rams edge Urbana
Mostly, both teams were frustrated by their inability to do much scoring and the turnovers and mistakes that wouldn’t stop coming.
Even with the continued troubles both Shepherd and Urbana faced, there was one moment in the middle of the first half that elicited waves of cheering, a hand-lettered sign or two and some balloons grouped together in celebration of the 1,000th career point scored by Shepherd senior Morgan McDonald.
McDonald’s 12 points were welded together with the offensive contributions of A.J. Carr, Austin Cunningham, Skyler Roman and Steffen Davis to help the Rams ease past the Blue Knights, 75-64, in a Mountain East Conference game that sent Shepherd off on an important three-game road swing that takes place over only a five-day period.
The win by Shepherd clouded the first season at Urbana for one-time West Virginia University center Rob Summers, now coaching the Blue Knights after two seasons as an assistant at Glenville and last year as the director of basketball operations at James Madison.
Summers’ crew dropped to 4-8 overall as Shepherd went out to a 9-3 overall record and a 4-2 conference mark.
The teams struggled through a mistake-strewn first half where Urbana could find the mark with 29 percent of its shot-attempts and the Rams already had 10 turnovers. Shepherd’s 14-of-31 shooting from the field was a measure better than the Blue Knights and since the Rams had been tagged with only four fouls they held a 35-25 lead.
Urbana had little size and their scant rebounding total was evidence to its lack of inside threats.
Shepherd kept its lead as the last half unfolded. So Urbana decided it would pressure the Rams in the back court. Facing the change of defenses, the Rams fared well enough for about nine minutes, even moving their advantage out to 56-40.
But that effectiveness was soon blunted and the Blue Knights were back within nine points.
Along with the backcourt pressure, Summers stationed his troops in a halfcourt zone that kept the Rams safely away from the inside.
Foul trouble caught up with the Urbana move toward the lead. Shepherd reached the bonus at the foul line with fully 9:25 to play. The Rams’ mostly clean record concerning fouling didn’t repeat itself in the last half and Urbana was on the bonus with 6:26 showing on the fast-fading clock.
The mistakes of the first half continued along mostly unabated in the final 20 minutes.
Finally, Shepherd was in the double bonus for the last 4:57.
And the Rams made good use of their free throw opportunities to salt away the win. Shepherd converted five of its last six free throw chances to move their modest winning streak to four games before heading off on the Interstate highways and state’s two-lane roads to unbeaten West Liberty, struggling Virginia-Wise and competent Concord.
McDonald’s point-scoring achievement had brought by far the loudest response from the announced crowd of 331 . . . but it was the conference win that might be celebrated the longest as the 22-game league schedule winds on through January and February.