Season begins with Shepherd wins over Virginia Union, Clarion
After opening its season with an 87-76 win over Virginia Union on Saturday in its Butcher Center, Shepherd returned to the same site on Sunday and received a last-second tip-in from Naim Muhammad to edge Clarion, 89-87, to give itself a 2-0 start to the 2015-16 men’s basketball season.
Leading by only three points at the half of the Virginia Union game, the Rams outgunned the visitors, 49-41, in the second half to get the satisfying victory.
Freshmen Winston Burgess and Marcus Adkison made auspicious starts to their collegiate careers with Burgess going 7-for-7 from the field and 7-for-9 from the foul line for 24 points. Burgess had six rebounds and five dunks in his debut performance.
The Rams placed six players in double figures and were buoyed by a 22-for-28 showing at the free throw line.
A.J. Carr, Ryan McTavish, Steffen Davis, Adkison and Muhammad were the other five Rams scoring in double figures.
Adkison, Carr, Muhammad and McTavish all had at least five rebounds and reserve Mike Reed paced the Rams with his eight rebounds.
Shepherd had only nine players available and eight of them played.
In staving off a Clarion second-half rally, the Rams had lost all of their 42-33 halftime lead and the score was tied when Adkison missed his last-seconds shot. But Muhammad tipped in the miss and the modest crowd of about 240 signaled their approval with a rush of applause and noise.
As they had done on Saturday, the Rams could point to the free throw stripe as one of the reasons they prevailed. Adkison made 10-of-10 foul shots and Shepherd was a scintillating 21-of-25 from the line. The Rams also connected on 12-of-24 three-point field goal tries.
McTavish was 8-for-18 from the floor after going only 3-for-13 from the field against Virginia Union. He finished with 24 points with Adkison pitching in 18 points, Davis 18 points and Muhammad 13 points.
Even though the Rams were outrebounded, 41-34, Muhammad and Reed each had six rebounds.
Andre Anthony scored 24 points for the Golden Eagles and Akeem Williams had 10 rebounds. Clarion made only 16-of-25 free throws, but came back after the Shepherd lead in the second half because it made 52 percent of its field goal attempts and had seven more rebounds.
Shepherd was 2-0 and the Golden Eagles of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference were 0-2.
The free throw line had been Shepherd’s friendliest ally . . . and it had converted 43-of-53 foul shots in stopping Virginia Union and Clarion.