Winston-Salem State Men finding their rhythm

Winston-Salem State Men finding their rhythm
January 23
00:00 2015
WSSU’s Javan Wells slices past defenders on his way to the basket.

After opening the CIAA portion of its season with back-to-back road losses, Winston-Salem State is showing signs that it could emerge as a genuine contender in the conference’s Southern Division. At the start of this week, the Rams had won three of four games in a five-game home stand that ended against rival Shaw University on Wednesday, Jan. 14.

WSSU (10-5, 3-3 CIAA) flexed some offensive muscle in administering an 87-62 beat-down of St. Augustine’s on Jan. 17. With Donta Harper leading the way with 17 points and 8 rebounds, the Rams had five players to score in double figures. Back-up point guard Kerry Campbell came off the bench to provide a huge lift with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

Donta Harper at the line.

Donta Harper at the line.

“We’re still in the process of establishing team culture and our style of play,” said Coach James Wilhelmi. “What’s most pleasing is that everybody is playing with a lot of enthusiasm for the game and for each other. As this team continues to grow and our guys continue to buy into their assigned roles, we should be pretty good. I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”

With home victories over Virginia State, Elizabeth City State and St. Augustine’s, the Rams seems to have overcome the problems they faced in single-digit losses at Lincoln (76-74) and Bowie State (77-71) earlier this month. WSSU doomed its chances against Lincoln by missing 14 free throws. Two days later vs. Bowie State, the Rams misfired all game long with icy shooting from the field (27.8 percent) and 10 missed foul shots.

But once Wilhelmi’s squad returned to action on its home floor at the Gaines Center, it was a different
story. The Rams turned to the 3-point shot in their 61-58 win over Virginia State. Wells and Leach combined to hit 8 threes. In beating Elizabeth City State (93-85), Leach and Wells sank four 3-pointers each and the Rams shot 53.1 percent from the field and 75.6 percent from the foul line. In the victory over St. Augustine’s, six different Rams scored from 3-point range and the team shot 51.9 percent from the field.

Coach Wilhelmi  with Marquez Jones.

Coach Wilhelmi with Marquez Jones.

“The way we’ve played during this home stand serves as a healing process for how our CIAA season started,” said Wilhelmi. “They’re starting to get it and everything is coming together.”

The biggest plus for the Rams is their ability to get multiple players involved offensively. There is no designated “go-to” player, which prevents opponents from solely focusing its defense on stopping one or two players. Marquez Jones is the top scorer at 13.5 points per game, followed by Terrell Leach (13.4), Harper (11.4), WyKevin Bazemore (11.3) and Javan Wells (10.9).

All eyes on WyKevin Bazemore during the Rams’ win over ECSU.

All eyes on WyKevin Bazemore during the Rams’ win over ECSU.

Moving forward, the one concern Wilhelmi has about his team is rebounding. The Rams, who are at their best in a free-flowing open-court game, don’t have much size on their front line. As a result, opponents usually win the battle on the boards.

“We don’t have much size in the post,” said Wilhelmi. “To compensate for that, it’s important that everybody gets on the glass. We have an abundance of quickness on our roster, which enables us to play very well when we push the pace every time we bring the ball up-court.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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