WSSU

Justice Kithcart made his return on Saturday against St. Aug’s. He had missed the previous four games.

The good news about a tough loss for the Winston-Salem State basketball team is the quick turnaround and a chance to play another game.

After a 69-68 loss to St. Augustine’s in Raleigh, the Rams will return to the Gaines Center on Monday night against Shaw for another crucial CIAA game in the Rams' bid to win the CIAA Southern Division title for the first time since 2014-15.

“It was bound to happen and I think we just had a little too much attitude going into the game,” Coach Cleo Hill Jr. of the loss Saturday night. “I just sensed in warmups that we didn’t have that fire and I told my assistants so it happened that way. However, I was glad they put up a fight and we nearly came all the way back (from an 18-point deficit).”

Five things to watch in the doubleheader including the women's game against Shaw:

1. Having 'familiar energy'

Hill said that the atmosphere around the Gaines Center has been tremendous, and he is looking forward to “familiar energy.” The Rams have played some of their best basketball in front of their rowdy students, going 9-4 at home.

The Rams have just two more home games, so this one against Shaw is pivotal if they want to win the Southern Division.

“The guys really do seem to rise to the occasion at home, so we’ll need that spark to kind of regroup after Saturday,” Hill said. “I really think the guys will respond.”

2. The return of Kithcart

Hill was pleased that Justice Kithcart was back on the floor Saturday night after missing four games with a stomach virus. He came off the bench to score 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting.

Hill said seeing him back in the rotation is a good sign.

“He gives us another shooter and a guy with that experience, and I knew he would do pretty well because he had two good practices before Saturday,” Hill said.

Kithcart has played in 11 games this season because of injuries and illness, but the Rams will need him over these last four CIAA games.

3. Winning streak works against the Rams

After winning seven straight games, it would be human nature for the Rams to think they are invincible. But the Falcons, who are near the bottom of the Southern Division standings, had other ideas on their home court. The Rams have never had much luck playing in Emery Gym, and Saturday was another one of those games.

“We had so much success during the streak,” Hill said. “Sometimes you get complacent but in this conference, especially in these Southern Division games, you can’t just show up and expect to win. I’ve been around too long and I’ve seen it.”

4. Update on Shaw

The Rams beat the Bears, who are in last place in the Southern Division, rather easily in Raleigh.

In the 78-61 win, Jaylen Alston of the Rams kept driving to the basket and produced a game-high 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Rob Colon added 19 points.

Greyson Kelley, one of the best players in the CIAA, leads the Bears with 20.8 points per game. He’s in the conversation for player of the year in the CIAA but he also plays nearly 39 minutes per game. A shooting guard, Kelley is shooting 49 percent from the field and 44 percent on 3-point attempts.

5. WSSU women limping home

Coach L’Tona Lamonte of the WSSU women’s team has gone through a season of nothing but injuries. At times her three best players have been out with assorted ailments but the most glaring loss has been guard Amaya Tucker, who was lost early this season with an ankle injury.

Tucker, a Reagan graduate, is redshirting.

The Rams have lost four in a row.

jdell@wsjournal.com

(336) 727-4081

@johndellWSJ

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