SHEPHERDSTOWN – Like many winter sports last year, Shepherd University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams did not have regular schedules.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rams were limited when it came to practicing, conditioning and playing games. For the most part, play was limited to a few scrimmages, with an exhibition game here and there.

So when Shepherd’s basketball teams took to the floor over the weekend, there was a lot of anticipation and enthusiasm.

“The gym, the excitement of the crowd, it was great,” Shepherd men’s coach Justin Namolik said after the Rams men’s official home-opener against Fayetteville State last Friday. 

The game was part of the Dave Russell Conference Challenge at Butcher Center. It was the first time in almost two years spectators returned to Butcher Center for a major Rams’ athletic event. Face masks are still required inside any buildings on the university’s campus, but most other restrictions have been relaxed. 

The concession stand was open again, an example the atmosphere at the games are returning to normal.

Shepherd’s men’s basketball team split two weekend games in the Russell Challenge, which was a mixer event. The Rams won their game with Bowie State on Saturday, 88-81, in overtime. The day before they lost in overtime to Fayetteville State, 57-56. The Rams are 1-1 on the year.

Shepherd’s women’s basketball team, which had won an exhibition game last week at James Madison, is off to a 2-0 start. The Lady Rams won their official opener last Friday at the Frostburg mixer, defeating Davis & Elkins with scores of 90-61 at the final buzzer. Then they downed the host Bobcats on Saturday, 90-61, starting out 2-0 on the season.

“It was real tough not being able to have a season last year,” Shepherd forward Kyle Daggett said following the men’s loss to Fayetteville State. “We had just a couple of practices.”

Even with no basketball season to speak of last season, Daggett said the downtime didn’t go to waste. The Rams maximized the use of all available practice time.

“We got better,” Daggett said. “We’ve got a lot of experience coming back.”

Shepherd struggled against Fayetteville State in an overtime loss, which featured four lead changes and six ties. The two teams tied at 47 at the end of regulation play.

The Rams’ biggest lead was six points. Turnovers hampered Shepherd. The Rams had 19 of them, compared with 13 by Fayetteville state.

“From the 10-minute mark down to about four minutes left in regulation, I think our execution was great,” Namolik said. “We were getting good looks at the basket, but in those last four minutes we weren’t getting those good looks. We were turning the ball over too much.”

Daggett had a team-high of 12 points, with six rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Dan McClain-Corley had 11 points for Shepherd, with five rebounds and six assists. Jon Preston had seven rebounds. Cam Stephens and Jarrod Robinson each had five rebounds with three assists.

“We had a little bit of trouble with our offense,” Daggett said. “We just couldn’t get the stops at the end.”

In Saturday’s win, the Rams rallied from a five-point halftime deficit to tie Bowie State at the end of regulation. Shepherd outscored the Bulldogs, 17-10, in overtime for the win.

McClain-Corley led Shepherd with a game-high 25 points. Stephens had 22 points with five assists. Preston had 14 points with nine rebounds. Daggett had 13 points with six rebounds. Robinson had three assists with three steals.

Shepherd’s women’s basketball team, which had won an exhibition game last week at James Madison, is off to a 2-0 start. The Lady Rams won their official opener last Friday at the Frostburg mixer, defeating Davis & Elkins, 90-61. Then they downed the host Bobcats on Saturday, 72-60.

Abby Beeman had a game-high 24 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals for the Rams. Sydney Clayton had 15 points with three steals. Jordan Smith had five rebounds. 

Against Frostburg State on Saturday, the Rams had a tough time in the beginning, but came back with strong play over the second, third and fourth quarters to secure the win.

The Bobcats held a 25-20 after the first quarter, but the Rams cut that lead to 41-37 at the half.  Shepherd outscored Frostburg State in the second half, 35-19.

Beeman had 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Clayton had 21 points with eight rebounds. Marley McLaughlin had 17 points the Rams.

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