RALEIGH, N.C. – Winston-Salem State battled its way back to take a late lead and held off the Shaw Bears, despite poor free throw shooting, 68-66, as the Rams moved into first place in the CIAA's Southern Division at Spaulding Gym on the Shaw campus on Wednesday night.
With the win, the WSSU Rams move to 11-7 overall, 6-2 in the CIAA, and 2-0 in the Southern Division, while Shaw University falls to 6-12 overall, 4-4 in the CIAA and 0-2 in the Southern Division.
The Rams were able to get going early helped in part by the strong start by Preston Ross who scored seven of the Rams first 10 points. Joining in the fray was Marquez Jones, the Rams and the CIAA's leading scorer, along with Javan Wells who came off the bench to score a quick eight point to help WSSU out to a 23-13 lead midway through the first half.
Winston-Salem State pushed their lead out to 14 at 29-15 on a Tyre Desmore jumper, before the Shaw Bears slowly started chipping away at the Rams lead.
But the Shaw Bears would use a furious 16-4 run to close out the first half and pull to within two points at 33-31 at halftime.
The Rams were able to battle their way back to a quick six points lead on four Marquez Jones free throws and a three pointer by Preston Ross to give WSSU a 40-34 lead, but the Shaw Bears quickly erased the deficit and pulled back even at 46-46 with 13:49 left to play.
Shaw continued to pressure the Rams and pushed their lead to 56-49 with just over eight minutes left, but WSSU refused to fold, even though they were struggling at the free throw line.
Preston Ross would hit a three pointer with 3:28 left to tie the game at 60-60, and Marquez Jones would give the Rams back the lead at 62-61 with 1:57 to play.
The lead would go back and forth over the final minutes of the game until the Rams Preston Ross would hit a driving basket, and was fouled. He made the free throw to complete the 3-point play and gave the Rams a 67-65 advantage with 11 seconds left to play.
The Shaw Bears had the opportunity to tie the game but could not convert on two free throw attempts and gave the ball back to WSSU with four seconds left.
Marquez Jones, the Rams leading free throw shooter could only make one of two to give WSSU a 68-66 lead.
But the Bears could not get off a shot in the final seconds, giving Winston-Salem State the 68-66 win.
Winston-Salem State was led in scoring by Preston Ross, who finished with 23 points and four rebounds, while Marquez Jones added 13 points and a steal, and Tyre Desmore chipped in 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Javan Wells came off the bench to add 10 points and four rebounds.
Shaw was led by Andre Paulk's 16 points and six rebounds, while Aquil Younger finished with 14 points and four rebounds.
Winston-Salem State will travel to Goldsboro, N.C. on Saturday, to play Fayetteville State University at Charles B. Aycock High School. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m.