The interdivisional portion of the CIAA conference slate is over and now only home-and-away series are left as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings continue to shake out.
Lincoln (PA): 12-5 overall, 7-1 in CIAA action, 2-0 in Division
The defending conference champions have won seven straight games, including Wednesday’s 52-51 road win over Virginia Union. It was a Madison Walker layup with two seconds remaining that kept the Lions win streak going. The win over the Panthers, plus Lincoln (PA)’s 83-62 victory over Bowie State has the Lions off to a 2-0 start in the Northern Division. Averaging a CIAA-leading 70.1 points per game, Lincoln (PA) is capable of getting buckets from a myriad of players, evidenced by its win over the Bulldogs when five Lions scored in double-digits. On Saturday, only one team will remain unbeaten in the North when the Lions welcome the Shaw Bears to Pennsylvania.
Bowie State: 9-8 overall, 5-3 in CIAA action, 1-1 in Division
Bowie State picked up a much-needed win at Elizabeth City State on Wednesday, 55-44. That victory had followed consecutive losses to Fayetteville State and Lincoln (PA) last week. With a game difference between second place in the North and fifth place, each divisional tilt means so much more and the Bulldogs will look to keep their distance from their peers with games against Virginia Union and at Shaw coming up. Their defense playing as they did against the Vikings (holding ECSU to under 30 percent shooting from the field and four Bowie State players had multiple steals) would be a great start.
Shaw: 11-8 overall, 4-3 in CIAA action, 2-0 in Division
10 days ago, the Bears were sitting at the bottom of the division, albeit still very early in the conference slate. On Saturday, Shaw will go on the road to Lincoln (PA) after winning three straight and seven of its last eight contests. In the run, the Bears have held opponents to under 50 points four times, which has Shaw sitting second in the conference, allowing just 57.2 points per game.
Led by Brittiney Seymour and her averages of 11.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, the Bears will look to continue its ascension with dates against the Lions and Bowie State next up. With favorable results, Shaw could be looking at moving from last to first in the North.
Virginia State: 8-9 overall, 4-4 in CIAA action, 1-1 in Division
The Trojans are looking to rebound from its 54-43 loss to Shaw Wednesday with a win against visiting Elizabeth City State Saturday. Following the home date against the Vikings, Virginia State is on the road for its next three games, including games against Lincoln (PA) and Bowie State, which currently sits 1-2 atop the division. The Trojans are holding CIAA opponents to a conference-best 33.5 percent shooting but they have failed to string together consecutive league victories because of an offense that is shooting just 34 percent from the field, the worst mark in the league. That does not mean that Virginia State does not have scorers– in eight conference matchups, Sommer Blakemore is second in points per game with 16.8 and Kalyn Ervin is ninth with 13 ppg.
Elizabeth City State: 10-6 overall, 4-4 in CIAA action, 0-2 in Division
After going 4-2 in inter-division play, the Vikings dropped games against divisional rivals Shaw and Bowie State. Elizabeth City State has balance, thanks to a scoring offense and defense that both ranks fifth in the conference. The Vikings will need that symmetry, especially with a road date against Virginia State coming Saturday. Elizabeth City State has also been excellent at home as the Vikings are 7-0 inside the R.L. Vaughan Center. After the game versus the Trojans, ECSU has four straight home games, including conference matchups against Virginia Union and Lincoln (PA) and the Vikings will need that home-court magic.
Virginia Union: 8-9 overall, 2-5 in CIAA action, 0-2 in Division
The Panthers have lost three consecutive games in league action and sit bottom of the standings in the Northern Division, however, they are just a few bounces away from a winning conference record. Late-game heroics saved Lincoln (PA) and Fayetteville State in games against Virginia Union and in a 69-64 loss to St. Augustine’s, the Panthers were leading by as many as 17 points in the second half. Virginia Union, led by Ny Langley and her 16 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, will try to close out upcoming games on the road versus Bowie State and Elizabeth City State.
Winston-Salem State: 10-6 overall, 6-2 in CIAA action, 2-0 in Division
The Rams have won four of their last five conference games, including three victories on the road. After dropping a game at Elizabeth City State, Winston-Salem State redeemed itself with wins over St. Augustine’s and Claflin. The Rams also showed that it can win in a multitude of ways, cruising to a comfortable victory over the Falcons and then after watching their 15-point lead wilt away against the Panthers, the Rams recovered and closed out the game late to secure the victory still. As has been the case all season, Amaya Tucker (averaging a team-leading 16.6 points per game) led the way for Winston-Salem State in each of those games. She scored 18 versus St. Augustine’s and 16 against Claflin. However, the Rams are also getting major contributions elsewhere as six players scored in double-digits against the Falcons and four reached double-figures versus the Panthers. Saturday is a big test with significant divisional implications as Winston-Salem State hosts Fayetteville State. That game could determine who finishes atop the Southern Division when it is all said and done.
Fayetteville State: 10-6 overall, 6-2 in CIAA action, 1-1 in Division
The Broncos have the same conference and overall record as division-leading Winston-Salem State, however, Fayetteville State has already suffered one divisional defeat at the hands of Livingstone Wednesday. That loss snapped a three-game winning streak ahead of a big divisional tilt against the Rams on Saturday. In the loss against the Blue Bears, the Broncos failed to top 50 points, which also happened in Fayetteville State’s loss to Lincoln (PA). Led by Morgan Graham and Aniylah Bryant, defense remains FSU’s calling card as the Broncos are allowing just 56.1 points in their eight conference matchups, second in the league. Graham leads the CIAA with 21 blocks in eight CIAA games (2.6 average) and Bryant has 19 steals for an average of 2.4 per league contest. On the road against the Rams, followed by a home date versus Claflin, FSU will need Bryant and Graham and the entire defense.
Claflin: 9-7 overall, 3-5 in CIAA action, 0-2 in Division
Claflin has struggled, as of late, dropping four consecutive games and five of its last six contests. To be fair, three of those losses (Bowie State, Lincoln (PA), and Livingstone) came on the road but unfortunately, the Panthers still have a pair of road games (at St. Augustine’s and at Fayetteville State) coming up next. Claflin will look to right the ship with the help of Nya Morris, who is averaging 12.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. In the last game against Winston-Salem State, Morris put up a hearty stat line of 10 points, nine boards, five steals, and four assists.
Livingstone: 6-11 overall, 2-6 in CIAA action, 2-0 in Division
It was a rough stretch of inter-division play for the Blue Bears but they have fared better against their Southern Division foes. Livingstone has upset both Claflin, 60-55, and Fayetteville State, 56-48, in the past week. The Blue Bears will enter Saturday’s matchup against host Johnson C. Smith with plenty of momentum and confidence and will look to continue its surge and make noise in the standings. Instead of having a player average double figures, Livingstone has six players averaging at least 6.8 points per game and they are capable of taking over a game at any moment like Sha’Terra Ferrell’s performance against Claflin when she went 8-of-10 from the field for 18 points.
Johnson C. Smith: 6-10 overall, 2-5 in CIAA action, 1-1 in Division
The Golden Bulls are still trying to recover from a six-game losing streak that extended from December to January, but their recent performance helps with two wins (Virginia State and St. Augustine’s) in their last three games. Johnson C. Smith can score in bunches as they average 68.7 points per game, fourth in the conference this season. However, the Golden Bulls are also allowing a lot of points, a conference-high 70.2 per game. Behind Shaniya Jones and her conference-leading 19.1 points per game, Johnson C. Smith will look to add to its win totals with home dates against St. Augustine’s and Livingstone coming next.
St. Augustine’s: 5-10 overall, 1-6 in CIAA action, 0-2 in Division
The Falcons picked up their first conference win last Wednesday by defeating Virginia Union, 69-64. That victory can be attributed to the stellar play of Lauren Banks (23 points, six boards) and Taniyah Greene (19 points, six rebounds). In conference action only, Greene is leading the CIAA with 17.6 points per game. St. Augustine’s will have to continue to rely on Banks and Greene as they play Claflin on Saturday and then go on the road to Livingstone next week.