Winston-Salem State’s momentum is building as it heads into a game today against St. Augustine’s in Raleigh.
The danger for the Rams is that the Falcons always seem to play well when the Rams show up at Emery Gym.
For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the first-place Rams have a chance to win the CIAA’s Southern Division and gain a No. 1 seed for the league tournament.
“The guys have really shown to be accountable to the team and to each other,” Coach Cleo Hill Jr. said of his Rams (13-8), who are on a seven-game win streak.
Five things to watch:
1. Where win streak started
The way Hill talks about how his team has come together might have just been because of a disciplinary action he took in the Elizabeth City State game at the Gaines Center on Jan. 13. Before that game Hill suspended Jaylen Alston, Xavier Fennell and Melvin Huntley for breaking team rules.
The Rams still nearly won, falling short 69-68 when Rob Colon’s last-second three-point attempt missed. Hill reinstated Alston and Huntley for the next game, and Fennell was reinstated after two games. The Rams haven’t lost since.
“I don’t even remember if that’s the case,” Hill said. “I just know that we’ve been playing better defense and the guys have communicated with each other on the defensive end. I’d like to think that has more to do with our winning streak.”
2. Defense leading the way
Much has been made about the Rams’ lack of height in the post, but Mason Harrell, the Rams’ biggest player at 6-foot-8 and about 200 pounds, has been a big key to a defense that allows a league-best 66 points per game.
“Our defense has to be there every night,” Harrell said this season. “If we can keep that discipline up then I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can beat us.”
What is helping that defense is the patience they are showing on offense. The Rams are working the shot clock down on just about every possession, especially when teams play zone.
3. Kithcart still out of action
Also missing from the game in which Hill suspended three players was guard Justice Kithcart, a junior transfer from Old Dominion. Kithcart was out with an illness, but he did play in the next three games before getting sick again.
Kitchart also had a knee injury earlier in the season and has missed 11 of 21 games.
Hill said he didn’t know whether Kitchart, who averages 7.3 points, would be available Saturday.
4. Rob Colon moving up scoring list
There’s no denying Rob Colon, a senior guard, has had plenty of good games in his career at WSSU but what he’s done this season is worth noting. Colon has been a consistent force that has him in the conversation for player of the year in the CIAA.
Colon is averaging 17 points but is shooting a career-best 42 percent on field-goal attempts. He also has scored 1,599 career points to rank eighth on the school’s all-time list. He needs 46 points to move up to seventh on the list.
“Rob’s been really playing well, and what I like is he’s showing leadership,” Hill said.
Colon doesn’t have to win games by himself, which is probably why he’s being more consistent and more patient.
5. Update on St. Aug’s
The Rams beat St. Aug’s at the Gaines Center 66-59, but that was back on Dec. 21 and a lot has happened to the Falcons since then.
The Falcons (8-15), who have lost three in a row, are led by Gary Jefferson’s 13.6 points per game. Jalen Gaddy is averaging 12.3 points and has made 51 3-pointers.
The Rams split with the Falcons last season, but the Rams won 63-57 in Raleigh.