West Chester, PA- The West Chester University men’s basketball team struggled last week both in and out of conference. The team lost an out-of-conference tilt against the University of the District of Columbia, 71-61, in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate, and was unable to put away East Stroudsburg at Hollinger Field House.WCU entered Wednesday night’s game short handed against the UDC Firebirds. The Rams found out senior center/power forward Aaron Williams would be unable to play due to an injury sustained in a double overtime thriller with Kutztown last Saturday. Williams, currently averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game, is the clear-cut leader of this team, and without him, the team seemed to lack its usual firey style of play.
Antwon Hawkins of UDC was the star of the game, as he scored 22 points on the strength of 12-13 shooting from the free throw line.
In the first half, it was all UDC, all the time. The Firebirds sprinted out to a 7-0 lead. The Firebirds were able to shut down the Rams perimeter oriented offense, holding them to 9 for 26 shooting in the first half and 2 for 11 from the 3-point arc.
By comparison, the Firebirds shot a sizzling 53.6 percent from the field on the strength of 15 for 28 shooting. UDC also struggled from a distance, shooting a dismal 2 for 7 from beyond the arc. However, they were able to abuse West Chester’s predominantly zone defense with good passing and better shot selection than the Rams.
Without the services of Williams, the Rams appeared reluctant to bring the ball into the paint and abuse a smaller and softer Firebirds team.
The Rams must start using some of its post players better. Lenwood Greenwood is a beast under the basket when given the ball, but usually gets limited shots because the Rams settle for low percentage shots from outside.
Against the Firebirds, WCU must have taken at least three or four 3 pointers from NBA range. Donnell Butler’s unparalleled athleticism allows him to slither around in the paint, but once again, due to the long jumpers, the Rams don’t get him the ball nearly enough down low. Greenwood was able to control the pace in the paint in the first half as he scored five points and added five rebounds, and Butler chipped in seven points and three rebounds.
Senior shooting guard, Shawn Werdt struggled shooting in the first half as he shot 1 for 4 from the field, adding four points. Senior forward Nathan Wingerd gave the Rams a big lift as he hit a three pointer with 37 seconds left to bring the Rams within seven. However, Jamaal Freeman of UDC crushed WCU’s spirit with a nice jumper with three seconds left in the first half to make it 37-28.
Antwon Hawkins took over the game in the second half as he was able to use his superior speed and quickness to draw fouls and get UDC to the charity stripe 23 times. The Rams seemed defenseless against his slashing style. Hawkins seemed to effortlessly glide through the Rams defense. The Rams were able to pull within five points of the Firebirds, but when Butler fouled out, Hawkins confidently nailed two free throws to clinch the game for the Firebirds.
Butler finished the game with 16 points and three rebounds, and Greenwood delivered another solid game with 14 points and dominated the glass with eight rebounds. The Rams finished the game with 6 for 20 shooting from distance.