The Bobcats got out to a bit of a tough start earlier in the season, but they were able to grab two wins over the weekend in front of a home crowd.
They defeated Lincoln Christian University 88-58 on Friday and the University of the Virgin Islands 66-59 on Saturday. The Bobcats had faced both of those teams earlier in the season. They fell in their first game to the University of Virgin Islands, but were able to pick up a win the next day. When they first faced Lincoln Christian University last month, they beat them by just three points.
On Friday, Shepherd said what pleased him more than anything was the way the team shared the ball and played together as a team. All but one Bobcat put up points, and five scored in double figures. Junior Treydon Rackley and senior Brandt Cochran each had 15, freshman Ayden Stone followed close with 14, freshman Andrew Mitchell had 12 and freshman Trent McBride had 10.
The Bobcats took an almost immediate lead over Lincoln Christian, leading by 25 after the first half. Lincoln Christian battled back in the second, cutting the Bobcats lead to as few as 14. But the Bobcats stayed on top to take a 30-point win at the end.
On Saturday, Rackley led with 18 points, Cochran followed with 15 and sophomore Klay Barton added 12. But all eight players who saw the court Saturday put up some points.
The University of the Virgin Islands had a 32-28 lead after the first half, but the Bobcats made a comeback and tied it up less than three minutes into the second. The teams tied it up once more, before the Bobcats took off with the lead with about 10 minutes left to play.
Shepherd said both of the wins this weekend were signs the team was improving.
“It’s been a challenging year with a tough schedule and a lot of young guys,” Shepherd said. “I have seen tremendous improvement as the year has gone on, which I am pleased with.”
The Bobcats are 17-11 for the season. Over half of the losses were within the first two months of the season. Since the new year, the team has only fallen four times and has picked up 11 of their wins.
Shepherd notes that he’s seen individual improvement, as well as more chemistry out on the court. He credits a lot of that to the team’s leadership, specifically that of senior Brandt Cochran. “Brandt has had a great year,” Shepherd said. “I think he’s been a key to watching our young guys develop in how he has led us.”
Cochran’s offensive statistics aren’t where they were last year. Right now Cochran is averaging 18.64 points per game along with 3.14 assists and 3.04 rebounds. Last season, he averaged 21 points per game along with 2.33 assists and 4.64 rebounds. But Shepherd said they’ve been able to rely on Cochran more defensively than the team had in previous seasons.
“His defense has really improved,” Shepherd said. “He’s gone from a guy who we haven’t really assigned a tough offensive player, to now where we always look for him to guard the other team’s best player.”
Next season, Shepherd said he’s looking forward to having a lot of returning players, although Cochran will be hard to replace.
“It seems like somebody else always emerges as the go-to guy,” Shepherd said. “He’s been that for us the last two years.”