The West Chester men’s basketball team has started their conference play and their season is beginning to closely mirror their 2009-10 campaign.Last year the Rams started out their season going 11-2 in non-conference play and had what appeared to be the makings of a playoff contending team. However, once conference games began, the Rams quickly found themselves ultimately finishing out the season with a 16-11 record and slipping enough in the standings to miss the playoffs.
With last season resulting in a less than expected finish, the Golden Rams had their eyes set on the 2010-11 season as a chance to earn back their reputation as one of the strongest teams in their conference.
Conference games started out exactly how they intended with a win over a tough Mansfield team.
Mansfield started out this year being one of the favorites to win their PSAC division after they accomplished the feat last season.
After a tough first half that saw eight lead changes, West Chester went into their locker room with a four point lead over their hosts. However, coming out of halftime, the Rams went on a 23-7 run to jump out to a commanding lead. The Rams led by as many as 19 points at one point and secured their lead enough to prevent Mansfield from getting within single digits for the remainder of the game. West Chester ultimately ended up upsetting the home team by a score of 86-74.
Shannon Givens led the Rams in scoring with 16 points in the victory, but had help on offense with four other players winding up in double figures. Elie Daniel posted 13 points for the Rams while Lance McDowell and Harley Williamson added 12 points. Khalif Foster rounded out the double figured scoring with 11 points off the bench. The loss to West Chester stands as Mansfield’s only conference loss on the season thus far.
With the convincing win over Mansfield, West Chester got the confidence boost they needed for their upcoming conference games.
However, the momentum was halted almost as quickly as it began when the Rams hosted East Stroudsburg only three days later. East Stroudsburg’s numbers from the field were not that impressive, but they took the lead with their first basket a minute and a half into the game and never relinquished. Their field goal percentage was only 42 percent, and their percentage behind the arc was an embarrassing 9.1 percent.
The Rams struggled just as much with their field goal percentage and also had a tough time from the free throw line. They only converted 65.4 percent of their free throws.
East Stroudsburg’s strength came from the free throw line where they found themselves a lot. Their 39 converted free throws were enough to put them over the top and give them the 82-69 win.
West Chester did get to utilize the strength of their bench who scored 32 points for the Rams.
Last Wednesday the Rams welcomed Kutztown to their home court to take on the team with the best numbers in the PSAC East.
West Chester continued to struggle from the floor and dropped to only shooting 33.3 percent from field goal range. The Rams only trailed Kutztown by four points going into halftime, but ultimately dropped the contest 73-62. Kehinde Roberts, who was sidelined through the non-conference games with a shoulder injury, led the Rams in scoring with 17 points.
On Saturday West Chester traveled to Millersville to take on yet another top-half-of-the-standings team. In their four conference games so far this season, West Chester has played the top four teams in the PSAC East.
Millersville was coming off of the high of upsetting Cheyney only three days earlier before their game against West Chester. The momentum seemed to carry forward as Millersville came out firing against the Rams. They took the lead only five and a half minutes into the game and held onto it until the end.
In the second half Millersville was able to pull away with a 20 point lead. West Chester got within seven with just over two minutes left, but was unable to close the gap enough. Millersville added a tally to their win column with the 82-70 win.
Again, West Chester struggled in their field goal percentage. They shot 36.7 percent from field goal range and only 56.8 percent from the free throw line.
If the Rams are going to keep this season from too closely resembling last year’s conference collapse, they are going to have to work out their numbers from the floor. The bench has been putting up the biggest numbers. On Saturday, the bench was able to contribute more points than Coach Blair’s starting line-up. The Rams have depth, but that depth should be utilized as a strategy to put the Rams over the top, not to just barely keep them in games.
West Chester will hit the road for their next two matches when they travel to Shippensburg on Wednesday and Bloomsburg on Saturday.
The Rams come back home on Wednesday Feb. 2 when they host Cheyney in what is practically guaranteed to be a spirited match.
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.