Teams seek a breakthrough at CIAA Tournament

Teams seek a breakthrough at CIAA Tournament
February 18
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
The Lady Rams have the stingiest defense in the CIAA (points allowed and field goal percentage defense). Taelor Mandeville (11) guards Virginia Union’s Jasalyn Denkins in a CIAA match-up earlier this season.



So far, both Winston-Salem State basketball teams have experienced up-and-down seasons. Even so, optimism abounds that the men’s and women’s teams have the capability to pull off a few surprises when the CIAA Tournament tips off next week in Charlotte.

With two games remaining in the regular season, the WSSU men (11-14, 4-4 CIAA Southern Division at the start of the week) appeared to be in free fall. A three-game losing streak damages their chances of a top-three finish in the division, which would assure a first-round tournament bye. The women’s team (11-13, 4-4) will most likely end up in fourth or fifth place in the division. Here’s a summarized look at the prospects for both teams as the conference tournament approaches. No clear-cut favorites With only two players returning from a year ago, the Rams had to start all over again with a practically brand-new roster. Among the key losses from last sea-son was power forward WyKevin Bazemore, a four-time All-CIAA pick who is now playing professionally in Spain. Leading scorer Terrell Leach (14.5 points) and C.J. Ford are the key contributors who played last year. In the meantime, a cast of newcomers – Rayvon Harris (10.2 points), William Crandell and Jamel McAllister – have played well at times.

The Rams have see-sawed their way through the season. Whether they can finish on a high note in the league tournament next week remains to be seen.

“For us to play to our full potential, it’s important for us to cut down on turnovers, get some balanced scoring, and do a better job from the free throw line,” said coach James Wilhelmi of WSSU. “This has been a weird year in the CIAA. It’s been a season in which any team can win on any given night. So, we’re hoping to finish (the regular season) strong and we’ll see what happens in Charlotte.”

Women will lean and defense

The chief issue for Winston-Salem State’s women is anemic offense. They’re not the worst shooting team in the CIAA (39.3 percent from the field). When it comes to putting points on the board, however, the Lady Rams are at the bottom of the stack in a 12-team league, averaging in the neighborhood of 59 to 60 points a game.

There are no double-digits scorers on the roster. Kandace Tate (9.7 points) leads the way, followed by Jasmine Carter (8.5 points).

“There have been some good showings this season,” said coach A.G. Hall. “What’s really hurt is that we’ve had problems putting the ball in the basket. We’re not shooting the ball as well as we need to. That’s why points are so hard to come by.”

Additionally, turnovers have stymied this team in its efforts to establish winning consistency. Coming down the stretch of the regular season, Hall’s crew averaged close to 23 turnovers per game, the fourth-highest in the conference.

A prime reason why the offense has struggled is due to the absence of sophomore guard Tiana Edwards, who averaged 9.1 points prior to being sidelined for the season with a stress fracture. Edwards has played in only nine games and hasn’t been available since late December.

“In spite of those short-comings, we continue to put forth the necessary effort,” said Hall. “We have players who are still committed to finding ways to win. They’re determined to make a big push in these last few games as they look forward to the upcoming conference tournament.”

Defensively, the end results have been the direct opposite. The Lady Rams are tops in the conference in points allowed per game (58.4) and field goal percentage defense (.351). The ability to slow opponents down has Hall excited about the possibilities for the conference tournament.

“Defense is our strength and that’s what wins championships,” said Hall. “That’s what we hang our hats on. For this group, it’s a matter of each person get-ting a little better offensively every day. If we can do that, take better care of the basketball, and defend the way we have all season, I like our chances in the tournament.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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