CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Both Bowie State and Winston-Salem State shot the lights out from three-point distance, but the Bulldogs were better from the free-throw line which is why they advanced to the CIAA Tournament men's basketball finals on Friday.
The Bulldogs topped the nationally-ranked Rams 83-66 in the men's semifinals at Time Warner Cable Arena for their first championship appearance since 2003 when they took the crown. They will meet Livingstone for the title at 8:30 p.m. The contest will be televised by Bounce TV.
The Bulldogs, seeded fourth in the Northern Division, stunned the Rams by making 24 of 29 free throw attempts for 83 percent. They drilled 10 of 12 free throws in the final 3:26 to pull off the upset over the Rams, the No. 2 seed in the Southern Division. The Rams are 10th in the NABC Division II poll.
By contrast, the Rams were cold from the charity stripe which prevented them from making a comeback. They were 8 of 19 in the second half after making 9 of 15 in the first 20 minutes. For the game, the Rams were 17 of 34 for 50 percent.
Bryon Westmorland paced the Bulldogs with 27 points and Dameatric Scott added 21 points, including an emphatic two-handed dunk in the latter stages to put an exclamation point on the win. It made the score 81-66 with 51 seconds left.
Bryan Wilson scored 10 points and Branden Doughty added 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who outrebounded the Rams 52-48. Westmoreland added nine rebounds and Scott had seven rebounds as the Bulldogs (15-14 overall) made life hard for the Rams in the paint. Points didn't come easy inside for the Rams, who shot 21 percent in the second half. The Bulldogs also outscored the Rams 24-12 in the paint and 15-4 in points off turnovers.
By making their free throws, the Bulldogs were able to control the second half. They outscored the Rams 46-28 to ultimately break open a tight game. Westmoreland was 7 of 8 and Doughty was 5 of 6 from the free throw line to lead the Bulldogs.
Justin Glover did everything he could to keep the Rams (21-6 overall) in the contest. He scored 17 of his game-high 29 points in the second half including 4 of 8 from three-point range. But no other Ram scored in double figures. Wakefield Ellison added nine points and Marcus Wells added eight points.
Trailing 38-37, the Bulldogs started the second half on a 23-9 run. Wilson capped the run with a three-pointer for a 60-47 Bulldogs lead with 10:43 left. Glover drained a three to pull the Rams within seven at 71-64 with 3:13 left, but the Bulldogs relied on free throws to put the game out of reach.
Both teams put on a three-point shooting show in the first half. The Bulldogs were 6 of 11 behind the arc for 55 percent and the Rams were 7 of 13 for 54 percent. Both teams cooled off from the perimeter in the second half but the Bulldogs still made 9 of 18 threes for 50 percent. The Rams were 11 of 29 for 37.9 percent for the game but made 4 of 16 three pointers in the second half.
For the game, Westmoreland was 4 of 10 and Scott was 4 of 6 behind the three-point line. Glover made 6 of 11 three-pointers to lead the Rams.
The Rams relied on their three-point accuracy to open an early lead. They hit seven three-pointers capped Tyre Desmore's trey for a 31-20 lead in the first half before the Bulldogs made their move.
Scott drained a three and scored on a follow shot to pull the Bulldogs within 31-27. A three-point play by Wilson put the Bulldogs right back in the game at 34-32, and they took the lead 35-34 on Westmorland's three-pointer from the wing. Westmoreland added two more free throws for a 37-34 Bulldogs' lead. The Rams responded with four straight points to regain the lead at halftime 38-37.
Both Westmorland and Scott led the Bulldogs with 11 first-half points. Glover scored 12 points to lead the Rams.