No. 10 Cavalier men fight but fall to No. 7 Shepherd

(Photo: UVa-Wise Athletics)

WHEELING, W. Va. - - Men's basketball powered through a slow start, but were unable to rally for the win as the Cavs fell to No. 7 Shepherd 71-66 in the first round of the Mountain East Conference Tournament.

Freshman Cameron Whiteside led the Cavs with 15 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Chance Sheffey posted 14 points with a team-high seven assists while fellow junior Eric Okenchi finished with 12 points and seven boards. Redshirt Freshman Briggs Parris also scored in double figures for the Cavs with 11 points while sophomore Jordan Pointer recorded eight points and a career-high five blocks.

UVa-Wise (9-20) turned around a slow start midway through the first half as the Cavs used a 28-8 run to get back in the ball game before finishing the half down just five to the Rams (14-15).

The Cavs struggled to get shots to fall for much of the opening half as the Rams pulled ahead 20-0 with 11:40 on the clock.

Sheffey would put up the team's first points of the game on a jumper in the paint. Back-to-back three-pointers by Sheffey and Whiteside put UVa-Wise down by 12 points, 26-14 with just under seven minutes left in the half.

Senior guard Rahji Langford's bucket on a fast break cut Shepherd's margin to single-digits as the Rams held on to a 26-17 lead. With 3:31 left in the half, Parris connected on his third triple of the game to put UVa-Wise down by one point, 26-25.

Sheffey's free throw with under two minutes to play knotted the game at 28 apiece, but a quick 5-0 lead shortly after regained the advantage for the Rams as they went into the half leading the Cavs 35-30.

Sheffey led the Cavs with 11 points and three assists while Whiteside added seven points, five boards, and two assists to start. UVa-Wise opened the game shooting 36.7 percent (11-for-30) from the field, 40 percent (4-for-10) from the foul line, and just 44.4 percent (4-for-9) from the charity stripe.

The Cavs were outrebounded to start 25-17 by the Rams with each team posting seven assists. Shepherd went 14-for-34 (41.2 percent) from the floor, 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) from behind the arc, and 2-for-4 (50 percent) from the line in the first half.

Shepherd would take a seven point lead, 41-34, with 17:16 on the clock to begin the second half. Parris' shot at the line pulled the Cavs within three points with 12:40 to go, 44-41, but a three by the Rams with a little over 10 minutes to play gave them a nine-point, 50-41, lead.

UVa-Wise used a 9-0 run to erase the deficit and knot the game at 50 apiece at the 7:46 mark. Cavs gained their first lead of the game just two minutes later on a coast-to-coast bucket by Pointer.

The Rams would take back the lead but a three-pointer by Whiteside with 4:21 left in the game put the Cavs ahead by one-point, 59-58. After another lead change, Okenchi's two shots at the foul line tied the game once again at 61-61 with 3:46 to go.

Another shot from downtown by Shepherd extended their lead to seven points, 68-61, at the 1:42 mark. The Cavs cut the deficit to three points, 69-66, with 39 seconds left in the game on a three by Sheffey but UVa-Wise would foul, putting the Rams at the line to end the game with Shepherd outlasting the Cavs, 71-66.

UVa-Wise shot 39.7 percent (25-for-63) from the field in the game, going just 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from three-point range and were 9-for-18 (50 percent) from the charity stripe. Shepherd posted 44 rebounds to 34 for the Cavs while the Rams were 43.3 percent (26-for-60) from the field, 35.7 percent (10-for-28) from behind the arc, and 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from the foul line.

Blake Mellinger's team will return to action in the fall for their 2019-20 campaign.

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