WSSUCIAA

Coach Cleo Hill Jr. and Winston-Salem State are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since the 2013 season. Since 1999 WSSU is 3-7 in NCAA Tournament games.

Back in the preseason Winston-Salem State players made an agreement with each other - there would be no plans made for spring break.

The reason was simple, if the Rams were good enough they would still be playing this week in the NCAA Tournament.

The Rams will be playing this week, while their fellow students are on spring break, and will play at top-seed Indiana (Pa.) on Friday in the first round of the Atlantic Regional. The Rams (19-10) and were the CIAA champions and earned the conference's automatic berth.

Indiana (Pa.), which is 28-2, is the host team of the eight-team regional and on Sunday won the PSCA. There are eight regionals with the field at 64 teams.

“We just said to each other don’t make plans because we were confident,” said senior Dontae Caldwell of the Rams about spring break. “We knew when the NCAA’s were so we made sure to focus on our season and it all worked out.”

Caldwell said his mother thought the season was over once the Rams beat Fayetteville State last Saturday in the CIAA championship game in Charlotte.

“Yeah, my mom thought it was over but I told her we have more games to play,” Caldwell said.

Coach Cleo Hill Jr. of the Rams didn’t know that his team had the discussion about making no plans for spring break week.

“That shows the confidence they had in each other so that’s great to hear,” Hill said. “We’re excited about this next phase of the season so we’ll have to be ready.”

One of the benefits for the Rams is they have an empty campus to themselves where they can practice and focus on the task ahead.

“I know I’ll also catch up on my schoolwork a little bit just to stay on pace with homework,” said junior Justice Kithcart of the Rams. “It will give us more time to work on our game plan and be ready to go this weekend.”

The Rams are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 when it lost to Slippery Rock 69-67 at West Liberty in West Virginia. This time around West Liberty is the second seed in the regional and will take on seventh-seeded Virginia State in the bottom half of the region bracket.

Since 1999 the Rams are 3-7 in NCAA Tournament games with their last victory in 2002 when they beat Wingate in the first round but lost to Shaw in the second round.

When Hill was at Shaw he made it one season to a regional final so he has plenty of experience in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s definitely a different environment but you have to ready for anything,” Hill said. “We’re excited about this chance to continue to play more games.”

jdell@wsjournal.com

(336) 727-4081

@johndellWSJ

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