CHARLOTTE, NC – The Winston-Salem State Rams (5-22) had no shortage of fight, but the team could not cool off a hot-shooting Virginia Union (15-14) when the team took an 86-72 loss in the opening round of the 2018 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men's Basketball Championship Tournament, Wednesday afternoon.
The Rams gave a great effort, but the team could not match a scorching hot shooting performance by the Panthers. As a team, the Rams played solid all game long, but some late desperate shooting skewed an otherwise solid offensive effort. The Rams shot 37.7% (23-of-61) in the game with a 33.3% (nine-of-27) from the three-point line. The team was also solid at the free throw line with a 77.3% (17-of-22) performance. WSSU sophomore guard Robert Colon led the Rams' offensive effort with 21 points off the bench for the Rams. WSSU junior forward William Crandell added 16 points and a game-high five rebounds while junior guard James Rucker, II added 10 points.
The game got off to a slow start for the Rams, but the team soon bounced back in a big way before a late run by the Panthers left the Rams trailing at the half. In the early going, the Panthers controlled the game, leaving the Rams in a 6-0 deficit before a Colon three-pointer with 16:53 left in the half cut the WSSU deficit in half. He would later hit a key three-pointer with 15:34 left in the half to tie the game 8-8. Virginia Union would answer to leave the Rams trailing, 17-12 midway through the half, but the Rams answered in a big way. A Rucker lay-up with 9:21 left capped a seven-point run by the Rams to give the team its first lead of the game, 19-17. From there, the two teams went back and forth trading leads until the Rams allowed a 12-2 run by the Panthers in the final minutes of the half. A free throw from Crandell broke the spell for the Rams and left the team with a 45-29 halftime deficit.
The Rams came back with a furious comeback effort early in the second half, but its deficit was too much to overcome. The Rams steadily chipped away at their deficit when a Colon three-pointer with 11:22 left to play pulled the Rams to within three points, 55-52. Virginia Union then answered with a run of their own with eight unanswered points to leave the Rams trailing, 63-52 with 8:13 left before a pair of Colon free throws snapped the skid and left the Rams trailing, 63-54. The run proved to be the final blow for the Rams as the team could never get back into the game. After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the final minute, the Rams were left to just end the day with the 86-72 loss.
With the loss, the Rams end their 2017-18 season with a 5-22 record and its third straight opening round loss in the CIAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament. 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.