ATLANTA, GA – The Winston-Salem State Rams (1-2) broke into the winners' column with a 64-55 victory over the Fort Valley State Wildcats (0-6), Saturday afternoon at the SIAC/CIAA Challenge. The game was a hard-fought, competitive one from the very beginning, but thanks to some clutch play and heart, it was the Rams who prevailed for their first win of the season and the first win under the guidance of head coach Cleo Hill, Jr.
The Rams took the win behind a great effort at both ends of the court. The team shot a solid 41.8% (23-of-65) from the floor, including shooting 34.6% (nine-of-26) from the three-point line. The Rams also pulled in 38 rebounds. WSSU senior forward William Crandell led the way for the Rams with a double-double 20 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Xavier Fennell added a career-high 11 points in the game as well.
The got off to an intense start where the Rams found themselves trailing early, but the team bounced back in a big way to claim the lead at the end of the first half. After an early tie, the Rams allowed the Wildcats to go ahead, 17-12 near the midway point of the half before a three pointer from sophomore guard Julius Barnes and a Crandell layup with 9:48 left tied the game, 17-17. The Rams stayed with a basket of the Wildcats before a three-pointer from junior guard Robert Colon gave the Rams a 24-22 lead with 7:08 left in the half. The two teams went back-and-forth trading the lead in the final minutes when senior guard James Rucker, II hit a free throw that left the Rams with a 32-30 lead with 00:29 left to play and gave the team a 32-30 lead at the half.
The second half was just as thrilling as the first half was with the Rams holding off the feisty Wildcats. The Rams pushed their lead to as many as four points before allowing the Wildcats to come back and tie the team, 34-34 early in the half. From there, the two teams continued to go back and forth trading the lead before a three-pointer from freshman guard Xavier Fennell sparked a seven-point run for the Rams to left the team on top, 56-48 after a jumper from senior guard Jalyn McKoy with 5:46 left to play. From there, the Rams pushed their lead to as many as nine points, 61-52 after a Colon free throw with 2:51 left. The Rams would not let the Wildcats get any closer as they pulled away for the 64-55 win.
With the win, the Rams improve to 1-2 overall. The team will return to action, Tuesday evening when they open home court against the Morris Yellowjackets in a 7:30 p.m. game. 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.