WEST LIBERTY, WV -- The #2 seed Winston-Salem State University Rams led throughout but could not hold on as Slippery Rock's Tabari Perry scored on a layup with 2.6 seconds remaining to complete The Rock's quarterfinal comeback to defeat WSSU 69-67.
It was the second straight NCAA Tourney that the Rams have lost in the final seconds, and the third consecutive first round loss for the Rams.
WSSU raced out early and held an 11-6 lead, led my freshman Michel-Ofik Nzege, and held a seven point lead with 13:06 in first half, 18-11.
Both teams would continue battling, and Slippery Rock would take their first lead of the game at 30-29 with 3:48 to play in the first half.
But the Rams would finish off the first half with a 9-25 run to take a six point lead at halftime, 38-32.
Slippery Rock came out hot in the second half, and sparked by their relentless offensive rebounding, stayed within striking distance of the WSSU Rams.
Winston-Salem State appeared to be on its way to victory after a WyKevin Bazemore basket capped a 14-4 run and gave the Rams a 66-61 lead as the clock ticked under 4 minutes to play. But that proved to be the final basket of the day for the Rams, however, and The Rock began chipping away.
Three free throws by Devin Taylor and another from Sa'Quan Davis pulled Slippery Rock within a point, 66-65, as the game entered the final minute. The Rock got the ball back after another defensive stop and Taylor, a 6-6 senior, tipped in a missed shot for a 67-66 Slippery Rock lead with 32 seconds to play.
Winston-Salem's Justin Glover was fouled with 11 seconds to go but made just 1-of-2 free throws to tie the score at 67-67.
Davis, the SRU point guard, hustled the ball into the offensive end and drew the defense to him with an aggressive move into the paint, before sliding a pass across the lane to Perry for the uncontested game-winner.
The WSSU Rams would have one more attempt for a win, but Jsutin Glover's shot was blocked and no foul was called even though there was contact.
WSSU was just four of 11 from the free throw line in the second half, and was out rebounded 46-40 for the game.
Joe Thompson came off the bench to lead WSSU with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Justin Glover finished with 15 points and six rebounds and Michel-Ofik Nzege finished 13 points and six rebounds. WyKevin Bazemore scored six points and pulled down six rebounds before fouling out, and Wakefield Ellison added six points and three rebounds. Marcus Wells added five assists, four steals and three points.
Devin Taylor led The Rock with a game high 27 points and 15 rebounds. Tabari Perry and Gerald Brooks added a 12 points each while Sa'Quan Davis chipped in 11 points.