Shepherd exhales on Bobcats

February 20, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Since the beginning of the season, Shepherd College coach Jodie Runner has been waiting for the Rams to exhale.

On Wednesday, the women's coach might have been the one with the biggest sigh of relief.

Shepherd played about as complete a game as possible by outdoing West Virginia Wesleyan in most every phase of the game to blow away the West Virginia Conference-leading Bobcats in a 73-51 upset at the Butcher Center.

It started with a 9-0 start and turned into a game that Shepherd (11-13, 8-7) outrebounded, outdefended and outhustled ... and just out and out outplayed Wesleyan to post what could become a benchmark victory.


"It helps the momentum ... it's not as much of a struggle. Once you get out to a start like that you can start breathing," Runner said of the opening run. "We were able to push and get out to a lead and led to the end.

"I've been preaching that offense comes from our defense. When we shut someone down, we get more out of it."

The Rams got it all on the Bobcats. First, the defense challenged Wesleyan and won most of the battles. Shepherd outrebounded a much taller team 51-30 and turned it into what it likes to do - play offense. But this time it wasn't just any offense. It was one of tempo that caught Wesleyan on its heels.

"I think this was definitely a carryover from Saturday," Runner said. "We played the same defense and have been practicing it. We were more aggressive in the zone. This was by far out best defensive effort. We knew they were talented both inside and outside and were bigger than us. The one thing we had was speed. We wanted them to have to sprint to get back on us."

The open floor was like a Broadway play for the Rams. First, Cassie Murrary set the stage for Shepherd, before Ashana Cowans closed the curtains on the Bobcats.

Murray had one of her more stunning offensive performances of the season, scoring 19 points from most every angle. She scored three straight baskets in the first half when Shepherd pulled out to a 23-13 lead, while the 5-foot-5 Cowans helped the Rams keep the breathing room by driving the lane for challenging layups as Shepherd pulled out to a 20-point lead after halftime.

"This is our mindset now," said Murray, who matched Cowans for scoring honors with 19 points. "I think we are going to be winning a lot of games now. We knew that (Wesleyan) didn't run the ball up the court and then didn't just walk it up either. They were a laid-back team. We knew they were bigger, we just had to keep beating them down the floor."

Shepherd's defense and hustle put the Bobcats on their heels. The Rams took the 9-0 lead while Wesleyan missed its first eight shots of the game. Wesleyan had just taken first place in the WVC on Saturday with a 68-53 upset of nationally ranked Glenville. The stay on top was short-lived.

Shepherd held a 33-22 lead at the half and extended it to 61-39 with 6:21 remaining on Ashley van Norden's 3-pointer. The rest of the game became a foul-shooting contest for Shepherd as Wesleyan was forced to foul to get back into the game to no avail while getting the Rams ready to face Glenville tonight.

"I told then that now we are going to play No.1 and No.2 back to back on consecutive nights," Runner said. "This is the way we might have to do when we get to the league tournament."

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