INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State men’s basketball (1-0) defeated defending CIAA champions Winston-Salem State (0-1) by a final score of 74-67 in the 2023-24 season opener on Friday night at the Walker Convocation Center. The Yellow Jackets held the lead for over 29 minutes in their first game of the annual Earl Lloyd Classic.
Juniors Kahari Rogers and Arthur Cox along with fifth-year senior Anthony Pittman led State in scoring with 15 points each. Rogers and Pittman also collected seven and six boards respectively. Rogers was deadly accurate shooting 6-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three-point range.
West Virginia State fell behind, 9-4, in the opening four minutes of the contest before back-to-back treys from Pittman and Nate Mims put the Yellow Jackets on top, 10-9. The pair of three-pointers started a 25-10 run by WVSU that lasted nine minutes. Rogers knocked down three treys during the stretch, including one at the end of the run, to help his team to a 10-point cushion, 29-19, with seven minutes to go in the first half.
The Rams pulled back to within one point, 31-30, over the next three minutes with an 11-2 run. Bunky Brown made a driving layup during Winston-Salem State’s surge to keep the lead from changing at the conclusion of the WSSU run.
The last three minutes of the opening half was played evenly until Mahzi Thames drained a shot from behind the arc as time expired to give the Yellow Jackets a four-point cushion, 39-35, at the break.
The second half was tightly contested at the start. WVSU clung to the lead until the Rams went up by five, 59-54, midway through after a 14-3 run.
West Virginia State then reversed the momentum with a 12-1 run led by Pittman who hit a pair of jumpers and banked a layup. The game-changing run left WVSU with a six-point lead, 66-60, around the four-minute mark.
Winston Salem-State was able to close the gap to three points, 68-65, over the next minute. Again, Brown made a driving layup during a Rams surge to prevent them from gaining the momentum.
Scoring by both teams ceased until a little over a minute remained in the game and the Yellow Jackets began being sent to the free-throw line. They made 6-of-7 shots from the charity stripe to hold onto the lead. WSSU made an uncontested layup as the clock ran out to give the game its final score, 74-67.
WVSU only turned the rock over seven times while forcing the Rams to commit 16 turnovers.
West Virginia State will wrap up the Earl Lloyd Classic tomorrow with a 4 p.m. game against Shaw.
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