CHARLOTTE, NC -- Winston-Salem State barreled past the Panthers of Virginia Union 84-74 to advance to the semi-finals in the CIAA Tournament.
The #10 Winston-Salem State University Rams, the #2 seed out of the South met up with the Virginia Union University Panthers on Thursday afternoon in Time Cable Warner Arena. The Panthers entered the contest as the #3 seed in the Northern Division.
With the 84-74 win Winston-Salem State advances to the semi-final game. The Rams will take on the winner of Thursday's 9:00pm game between Lincoln (PA) and Bowie State.
Head Coach of the Rams, Bobby Collins stated, "This is what we've been preparing for all year. We need to be prepared whenever we play, whoever we play. I thought the first half we came out a little flat defensively. I didn't panic because I knew we could turn it up defensively. We just want to continue to play consistent defensively and share the basketball. When we do that we are very hard to beat."
Five players netted double digit scoring for the Rams, with Justin Glover andMichel-Ofik Nzege collecting 16 each, Wakefield Ellison and CIAA Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Wells scoring a season high, 15 points and WyKevin Bazemore adding 14 points in the victory. Nzege, Bazemore, Eillison and Joseph Thompson all grabbed seven rebounds each.
For Virginia Union, Wesley Simmons led all scorers in the game with 22 points. Cordero Holt added 15 points in the loss.
All-CIAA performer WyKevin Bazemore got the Rams on the board first in the contest with a mid-range jumper. A three pointer from All-CIAA selection Justin Glover gave Winston-Salem State a 5-0 lead at the 18:06 mark.
Juan Wilson put Virginia Union on the contest with an inside layup to make the score 10-2 with 16:31 left in the first half. Two made free throws form Cordero Holt made the score 10-4, but a three point basket from Justin Glover on the next possession pushed the Rams' lead to nine points. Justin Glover added a three point basket for the Rams.
By the first media time out in the game, the Rams had built a commanding 17-6 advantage over the Panthers. Virginia Union used two made free throws from Juan Wilson and two jumpers for Wesley Simmons for a 4-0 run to pull within five (17-12) of the Rams with 13:06 left in the half.
Winston-Salem and Virginia Union traded baskets over the course of the next four minutes until the Panthers used a three pointer from Cordero Holt at the 9:19 mark to make the score 23-19. Ken Pankey shifted the momentum in favor of the Panthers with a three pointer just before the second media time out to make the score 25-22.
Wesley Simmons drove hard to the basket for a lay-up followed by another trey from Ken Pankey to give Virginia Union a 27-25 advantage with 7:03 left in the first half. A Ram foul gave Cordero Holt two shots from the charity stripe which he used to pull the Panthers' lead to four.
Michel-Ofik Nzege ended Virginia Unions' 10-0 run with a lay-up for the Rams at the 5:38 mark. With the Panthers leading 29-27, the Rams took advantage of a lay-up from WyKevin Bazemore and Virginia Union fouls to tie the game 35-35 with 1:44 remaining in the half.
A three pointer from Ken Pankey for the Panthers secured a 38-35 advantage for Virginia Union heading into halftime.
The Rams orchestrated a 6-0 run at the start of the second half, capped by a steal and lay-up off a fast break from Marcus Wells to pull ahead 41-38. Joe Thompson's three pointer for Winston-Salem State allowed the Rams to maintain a narrow 45-42 advantage at the first media time of in the half.
Wakefield Ellison extended the Rams' lead to six (50-44) with 14:46 left in the game. Virginia Union fouls allowed Winston-Salem to build a 55-46 lead at the 12:41 mark. A Ram turnover with 12:22 left to play allowed Wesley Simmons to get the Panthers back in the game with a lay-up. Justin Glover answered back with a three pointer on the next possession to put the Rams up 60-50. Kimani Hunt's lay-up with 10:22 on the clock gave the Rams a 12 point lead, their largest of the contest.
Marcel Crump completed the three-point play with 7:41 left to play to pull the Panthers within 10 points (69-59). Virginia Union took advantage of Winston-Salem State fouls to make it an eight point game (69-61) with 7:06 left to play.
Scoring came to a halt for both teams for the next minute of play before Kimar Johnson scored a basket for Virginia Union to make the score 69-63 with six minutes left in the contest. With the score 71-65 in favor of Winston-Salem, Omar Briggs sunk two free throws and Cordero Holt hit a lay-up to put the game within reach (71-68).
Wakefield Ellison drilled a three point basket for Winston-Salem State with 1:16 left to play to secure a 76-70 point advantage. A Panther foul resulted in Juan Wilson sinking two free throws to extend Rams' lead by eight.
Both teams exchanged buckets at the charity stripe for the remainder of the game, with the Rams advancing to the semifinal with the 84-74 win over Virginia Union.
Head Coach of the Panthers, Luqman Jaaber commented, "It's a tough loss. They beat us this time. They played harder than us especially when you look at the hustle stats like rebounds and second chance points." Virginia Union ends their season with a 10-15 overall record.
Winston-Salem State heads into Friday's semi-final with 21-5 record. They will play the winner of Thursday's 9:00pm between Lincoln (PA) and Bowie State. Tip-off on Friday is scheduled for 9:00pm.