WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Winston-Salem State Rams (7-8, 3-3 CIAA) gave a tremendous effort, but the team came up just short in an 82-79 overtime loss to the Elizabeth City State Vikings (12-6, 5-3 CIAA), Monday evening. After trailing at halftime, the Rams had a big second half to tie the game, but the team could not carry their efforts over into the overtime period in the hard-fought loss.
The Rams took the loss in spite of a strong overall effort in the game. The Rams shot a solid 42.2% (27-of-64) from the floor in the game, including going 10-of-29 from the three-point line. WSSU redshirt-sophomore guard Julius Barnes led the way for the Rams with 21 points in the game. Senior forward William Crandell added 16 points with eight rebounds. Senior forward Jamel McAllister added 11 points with three rebounds while senior guard James Rucker, II added 11 points off the bench.
The game was a thrilling one that began with an exciting, but low-scoring first half. Elizabeth City State struck first with a big 8-2 lead to open the game, but the Rams came back as a Barnes three-pointer with 6:42 left in the first half gave WSSU its first lead of the game, 18-16. The Rams went ahead by as many as five points, 23-18 after a three-pointer from senior forward Jalyn McKoy with 4:29 left in the first half, but the team went cold as a Rucker, II three-pointer with 2:11 was the only other WSSU score of the first half and the team took a 29-26 deficit into the locker room at halftime.
The second half was a bit different as both teams found their scoring ways and combined for 87 points in the half. This time, it was the Rams who held the three-point edge as they took the game into overtime. Things looked bleak for the Rams as the team fell behind by as many as seven points, 42-35, before tying the game, 45-45 on a dunk from freshman forward Xavier Fennell with 12:26 left in the second half capped a 10-2 run by the Rams. The Rams claimed their first lead of the half after a Barnes three-pointer with 9:34 left in regulation. The long-range shot sparked a three-point barrage from the two teams that ended with the Rams on top, 53-51 after Rucker, II's second three of the game. The Rams went ahead by as many as five points, 65-60 after a four-point play by Barnes with 4:23 left to play. The Rams held a four-point, 71-67 lead heading into the final minute of the second half when Elizabeth City State hit a pair of free throws and got a key offensive rebound and put-back with seven seconds left to play that tied the game, 71-71. The Rams called a timeout and attempted to run a play, but a WSSU turnover ended the Rams' scoring threat and sent the game into overtime.
The overtime period was less exciting as the Rams allowed an early run by the Vikings and could never get back into the game in the hard-fought loss. The Rams allowed five unanswered points to the Vikings before a Fennell free throw with 3:23 left to play broke the scoring seal for the Rams and left the team trailing, 76-72. The Rams had a brief spark when Rucker, II scored three straight points with a free throw followed by a steal and lay-up to pull to within three points 78-75 with 2:09 left to play. The Rams stayed to within three points of the Vikings, 80-77 after a pair of Barnes free throws with 1:28 left, but the team would score again until it was too late. A pair of Vikings free throws with 00:19 left sealed the WSSU loss as a Rucker, II lay-up at the buzzer was all that the Rams would get in the tough 82-79 overtime loss.
With the loss, the Rams fall to 7-8 overall and 3-3 in CIAA play. The team will hit the road for their next action as the team will head to Raleigh, N.C. to take on the Saint Augustine's Falcons in a 4:00 p.m. game at Emery Gymnasium, Saturday.
For more information on Rams men's basketball, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.