ORANGEBURG, SC - The Winston-Salem State Rams (13-9, 9-4 CIAA) played some tough defense and hit some key free throws on their way to a 67-59 win over the Claflin Panthers (12-12, 8-8 CIAA), Thursday evening. The Rams held the lead for most of the game, but they needed to play some tough defense to keep the feisty Panthers at bay and to claim the win.
Winston-Salem State played some tough defense and a balanced offensive attack to claim the win. As a team, the Rams held the Panthers to shooting just 36.5% (23-of-63) from the floor while shooting a solid 38.3% (18-of-47) from the floor in the game. Freshman guard Amaya Tucker led four WSSU players in double-digit scoring with 19 points in the game. Fellow freshman guard Hailey Gipson added a career-high 16 points while freshman forward Kyree Hall added 11 points with eight rebounds and senior forward Brionna Pate rounded out the effort with a double-double 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The Rams took control of the game early in the first quarter, but they had to fend off a tough effort by the Panthers. After allowing the Panthers stay close for much of the quarter, the Rams pulled way 20-15 after a pair of free throws from freshman forward Kyree Hall with 00:32 left in the quarter. However, the Rams allowed the Panthers to close the quarter with a score to stay ahead, 20-17.
The second quarter had a similar look as the Rams were slow to get started, but pulled away midway through the quarter before allowing the Panthers to go on another late surge to keep the game close. The Rams' biggest lead of the quarter came when freshman guard Hailey Gipson hit a lay-up with 3:46 left in the half to go ahead, 32-23. However, the Rams went scoreless for the remainder of the quarter and had to fend off a late run by the Panthers to take a 32-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The third quarter was the most competitive of the game. The Rams were outscored 14-13 in the quarter, but they were able to hold on to their overall lead in the game. After pushing their lead to eight points, 38-30 after a Gipson free throw with 7:58 left in the quarter, the Rams ran into some struggles as Claflin made a fierce comeback effort. The Rams allowed the Panthers to go on a 10-2 run to tie the game, 40-40 before junior guard Taylor Daniels hit a critical jumper with 2:39 left in the quarter to break the tie. Both teams would go on the offensive attack in the final minutes of the quarter, but the Rams held on to take a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter.
With the victory within reach, the Rams picked up their effort s to claim the win as they outscored the Panthers, 22-13 en route to the win. The Rams opened the quarter with a 6-1 run to take a 51-46 lead with 7:58 left to play after a Pate lay-up. From there, the Rams never looked back. The team allowed Claflin to pull to within three points, but they never relinquished the lead. In the final minutes, the Rams hit several key free throws as the Claflin defense held the Rams without many final goals during the span. In the end, it was the Rams who came up with the victory.
With the win, the Rams improve to 13-9 overall and 9-4 in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) play. The team also improves to 6-1 in CIAA Southern Division play to remain in a tie for first place. The Rams will return to action, Saturday when the team hosts the Saint Augustine's Falcons in a 2:00 p.m. game. For more information on Rams women's basketball, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.