West Chester’s Lance McDowell was named PSAC East Athlete of the Week as the Golden Rams went 2-2 in its second and third weeks of play, defeating two non-conference foes, Chestnut Hill and Holy Family, while dropping two key PSAC games against Mercyhurst and Clarion.
First up for West Chester was a visit from PSAC challenger Mercyhurst, who was projected to finish fourth in the PSAC West Division. The Golden Rams couldn’t hang with the undefeated Lakers (3-0) who shot 43 percent from the field en route to a 90-71 defeat.
The Lakers scored a whopping 34 points from the free throw line while missing only 10 from the charity stripe. West Chester struggled from beyond the arc going only 3-for-16. The Rams found themselves down by 11 at the half and just couldn’t recover after the intermission. Jon Breeden led the way for West Chester, scoring a season-high 18 points and dishing out three assists. Corey Blake provided 13 off the bench and Lance McDowell recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Mercyhurst was led by Matt Lee and Bill Weaver who scored 27 and 21 respectively. The win bumps Mercyhursts PSAC record up to 2-0.
West Chester rebounded from the Mercyhurst loss with a big road win against Chestnut Hill. The Golden Rams fell behind early and trailed by four as the teams went into the locker room, but came out strong in the second half, shooting 58 percent from the field while holding the Griffins to only 36 percent. The game was back and forth until Lance McDowell went on an 8-0 run of his own to put the Golden Rams ahead for good with just under five minutes to play. West Chester was led on offense by McDowell, who scored a career-high 24 points, the most by a Ram this season. He also added nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Two other players reached double figures as Breeden added 12 points to go along with four assists and Jaleel Mack added 11 points. Chestnut Hill was led by three players who scored double figures. Jakeem Bogans came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points, while starters Mark DiRugeris and Brandon Williams scored 15 and 12 respectively. The loss gave Chestnut Hill its’ second loss of the season dropping them to 4-2 overall.
The Golden Rams returned from Thanksgiving break last Tuesday with a nail-biting victory over visiting Holy Family. West Chester saw its lead of 11 with under five minutes diminished to just one. McDowell hit two clutch free throws and the Golden Rams held on for the 67-64 victory. Despite shooting only 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from three, West Chester out-rebounded the Tigers 38-32, with 16 of those coming on the offensive glass. McDowell recorded his second double-double of the year, while leading the Golden Rams with 19 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He also went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line and dished out four assists. Breeden was the only other Ram in double figures, scoring 10 points and dishing out four dimes. West Chester showed its depth against Holy Family as 10 different players scored at least two points. Holy Family put four players in double figures led by Khiry Hankins, who notched 18 points and Angel Ayala, who scored 12 off the bench. Holy Family fell to 3-2 on the season.
West Chester overcame a sluggish start against fellow PSAC member Clarion, but fell short in overtime, losing 80-77. Clarion opened the game on a 9-0 run and never let West Chester get into a rhythm offensively, holding a 39-31 lead at the half. The second half was a much different story however. The Golden Rams came out firing and the Golden Eagles did their best to keep up as West Chester went on a 22-9 run to open the half. After the game, McDowell commented on how the team didn’t make any major strategic changes in the locker room, rather the focus was on the team, “tuning in mentally.” After West Chester’s run pushed the score to 53-48, Clarion answered right back eventually tying the score at 63 a piece with about four and a half minutes left to play. West Chester had a chance to win it in regulation but Breeden’s three-pointer at the buzzer came up short. In an overtime marked by turnovers, it was Clarion who came up with key defensive stops and held on for the three point victory. McDowell led five different Golden Rams into double figures, scoring 17 points, with Breeden adding 13. Carl Johnson and Blake made major contributions off the bench as they each scored 12. The Golden Eagles were led on offense by Winfield Willis and Calvin Edwards who scored 19 and 18 respectively. Clarion’s record improved to 3-3 and 1-1 in PSAC play.
After facing PSAC crossover, Gannon, the Golden Rams will have back-to-back road games this week as they look to improve upon their 4-3 record and 1-2 conference mark before the holiday break. On Friday, they travel to Edinboro for a 7:30 p.m. game, followed by a stop in Lock Haven on Saturday for an afternoon game set to begin at 4 p.m.
The Golden Rams will not return home to Hollinger Field House until they take on PSAC East rival Shippensburg on Jan. 18 at 8 p.m.
Riley Wallace is a third-year student at West Chester University. He can be reached at RW718681@wcupa.edu.