WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Winston-Salem State used a strong second half effort behind its big three players of Marquez Jones, WyKevin Bazemore and Preston Ross, III, as the Rams defeated the Blue Bears of Livingstone College in the regular season finale on "Senior Night", Saturday night at the CE Gaines Center on the Winston-Salem State University campus.
With the win, the Rams finish the regular season at 16-10 overall, 11-5 in the CIAA and 7-3 in the Southern Division. Livingstone ends its regular season with a 18-7 overall record, 11-5 in the CIAA and 8-2 in the Southern Division.
In one of the largest crowds in recent memory, the CE Gaines Center was packed to capacity with WSSU fans a large contingent from Livingstone and the game lived up to its billing.
Winston-Salem State opened the scoring on a Preston Ross, III jumper, and both teams played virtually even for the first few minutes of the game.
Livingstone surged ahead by three points with 13:19 on the clock, but Marquez Jones free throw tied the game with just over 12:00 minutes to go in the first half.
Both teams continued to battle evenly before the blue Bears would once again take the lead coming the stretch of the half, and twice held six point leads, the final coming with 2:11 to go.
WSSU would get buckets from WyKevin Bazemore and a three pointer from Kerry Campbell to cut the Livingstone lead to just two points at 39-37 at the half.
The Blue Bears started the second half strong and by five minutes into the half, had extended their lead to eight points at 52-44.
But the Rams would respond with a 12-3 run to take the lead for good with 10:17 left to play. WSSU would turn up the defensive effort and would once again use a big run of 12-3 to take an eight point lead, 68-60, with 6:22 remaining.
The Blue Bears would cut into the lead, but the game would come down to free throw shooting for the Rams.
With 3:02 remaining, WyKevin Bazemore would hit one of two free throws to put the Rams up nine, 73-64, the coming down to the crucial final moments, everyone on the floor chipped in on the free throws, as WSSU converted seven of eight attempts in the final 2:00 minutes to secure the big win, 81-74.
For the Rams, Marquez Jones finished with a game-high 24 points to go with four assists and two steals, and Preston Ross, III added 19 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot. WyKevin Bazemore finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steal and two blocked shots. Tyre Desmore added nine points and five assists and Quinton Alton came off the bench to score a season high nine points and nine rebounds. Kerry Campbell chipped in four points, one assists and one steal.
For the Blue Bears, Eric Mayo finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Jody Hill and Emarri Bailey finished with 16 points each. Mark Thomas finished with nine points and four assists.
Winston-Salem State will earn the second seed from the Southern Division in next week's CIAA Tournament in Charlotte, and will await the official pairings tomorrow to find out who they will face.