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Winston-Salem State traveled 435 miles by bus for tonight’s scheduled game against top-seeded Indiana (Pa.) in the first round of the Div. II NCAA Tournament.

Winston-Salem State's Division II basketball tournament game with Indiana (Pa.) that was scheduled for Friday night was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“You really had no choice when you look at everything that has gone on with this serious virus,” Etienne Thomas, who is WSSU's athletics director, said by phone from Indiana (Pa.). “Safety is at the forefront of our student athletes and the NCAA had to make this call and it was the right call.”

The 64-team tournament was part of the NCAA's blanket cancellation of the remainder of its winter sports championships, including the Division I men's tournament or March Madness, and all of its spring championships because of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Rams will leave Friday morning to make the 435-mile bus trip back to Winston-Salem.

“This virus is a serious thing and it can’t be taken lightly,” said Hill, who with his wife, Regina, has two children. “I start thinking about my kids and what can happen so you have to be cautious. ...

"It had to be done," he said. "We have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old at home and then I think about my brother who is helping my mom, who is 80 years old in New Jersey. It's a tough time right now in this country for everybody."

The Rams (19-10), the CIAA champions, will lose four seniors off this season's team. Robert Colon, Julius Barnes, Dontae Caldwell and Mason Harrell have completed their eligibility.

Colon ends his career as the seventh-leading scorer in school history with just more than 1,700 points.

"The guys coming back really know what it takes to win the CIAA and that's experience you need," Hill said. "I know this isn't ideal, but moving forward I like where we are headed and what the future looks like for this program."

The Rams had one practice at Indiana.

"We were dialed in and were ready to play," Hill said. "And I'm going to be honest, we liked the way the bracket set up. It is a shame we didn't get to play more games, but the guys are mature enough to know the reason and are OK with it."

The Rams won the CIAA's automatic NCAA berth by beating Fayetteville State in an epic comeback in the league championship game in Charlotte. The rally from 11 points down in the final four minutes will be this season's lasting memory.

"When you think about it, that's a heck of way to end the season on," Hill said. "I saw something on social media where it said WSSU is the Division II national champions, and I'm OK with that."

jdell@wsjournal.com

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@johndellWSJ

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