CHARLOTTE, NC- The Lincoln University captured a 67-65 overtime victory over Winston-Salem State University on Tuesday in the opening round of the CIAA Tournament.
The Lions will take on Livingstone College on Wednesday.
Lincoln entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed out of the CIAA Northern Division while the Rams had the No. 6 seed out of the South.
John Hill, head coach at Lincoln noted, “Tonight was by no means a perfect night. It was a real hard fought game…I thought the kids played really hard tonight. We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing but we played well enough to win…We’ve lost a lot of really tough games this season so it felt really good to walk away with the win tonight.”
James Wilhelmi, Winston-Salem State Head Coach added, “We have to give Lincoln credit. They did a great job. I’m proud of our guys, I thought they played hard. We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket when we needed to. I’m proud of the effort…the effort was there. ”
Terrell Leach led all players in the game with 21 points for Winston-Salem State.
Keith Armstrong added 13 points in the setback while grabbing eight rebounds.
Vernon Young paced the Lions with 19 points in the victory. Quaman Burton drained 14 points while Antonio DePina added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Leach opened the contest with a three-pointer for Winston-Salem State and Armstrong added back-to-back layups to give the Rams a 7-0 lead by the 15:27 mark in the first half. DePina’s three-pointer for Lincoln put the Lions on the board but TJ Wilson’s jumper on the Rams’ next possession gave Winston-Salem a 9-3 advantage with 14:33 on the clock.
The Lions answered with a jumper by Joshua Davis and layup by Young to cut the Rams’ lead to two points (9-7).
CJ Ford responded with a three-pointer for Winston-Salem State before Young answered with a layup to put Lincoln back within striking distance (12-9).
Winston-Salem State used a jumper by Wilson with 8:18 on the clock to push the Rams ahead 17-11.
The Lions refused to go down without a fight and cut the Rams’ lead to one point on two occasions.
With Winston-Salem State clinging to a 19-18 lead with 5:04 on the clock, a 10-1 run by the Rams left the Lions looking to recover from a 28-19 deficit.
Sean James drained a three-pointer for Lincoln at the end of the first half, but the Rams carried a 28-22 advantage heading into the halftime break.
Winston-Salem State and Lincoln exchanged baskets at the start of the second half.
With the Rams holding a 32-26 advantage, back-to-back buckets by Joshua Davis made the score 32-30 with 16:51 on the clock. Demone Harrison promptly hit a three-pointer on Winston-Salem State’s next possession to give the Rams a five point cushion (35-30).
Layups by Young and Davis shifted the momentum in favor of the Lions and left the Rams grasping at a 35-34 lead with 12:37 left in the game.
Young’s layup with 11:32 on the clock gave the Lions a 36-35 lead, and their first advantage of the contest.
Armstrong’s free throw knotted the score 36-36 but Young answered with a basket to push Lincoln ahead 38-36. Back-to-back baskets by Leach allowed the Rams to inch ahead 40-38 before Young’s layup and made free throw restored the advantage to the Lions once more (41-40).
Lincoln maintained a narrow advantage until the 4:46 mark when Leach drained a free throw to tie the score 47-47.
Following a Lion turnover, Ford hit a layup to hand the Rams a 49-47 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Two made free throws by DePina knotted the score 49-49 before Wilson’s jumper restored the lead to Winston-Salem State.
A dunk by Rayvon Harris for Winston-Salem State followed by two made free throws by Young for Lincoln made the score 53-51 with 1:06 left in the game.
With 10 seconds remaining in the contest, Burton came through with a jumper for the Lions to tie the score 53-53. At the end of regulation, Leach’s layup was blocked by Young with two seconds on the clock, forcing an overtime period.
Leach opened overtime play with a jumper and took advantage of a free throw to push the Rams ahead 56-53.
Burton responded with a layup for the Lions and connected on two free throws on Lincoln next possession to leave Winston-Salem State trailing 57-56 with 3:15 on the clock. The Lions added five unanswered points to pull away 62-56 with 37 seconds left in the game.
Armstrong’s layup and free throw ended the scoring drought for the Rams and made the score 62-59.
After a free throw by Umar Saaba for Lincoln, Harrison drained a three-pointer for Winston-Salem State to leave the Lions grasping to a 63-62 lead. Burton took advantage of four free throw opportunities down the stretch to give Lincoln a 67-62 advantage. Leach hit a deep three-pointer at the buzzer for the Rams but it was too little too late as Lincoln secured the 67-65 victory.
Winston-Salem State ends their season with an 11-17 overall record while the Lions advance with a 9-19 overall mark. Tuesday’s win marked the first CIAA Tournament victory for the Lions’ men’s basketball program since returning to the CIAA.