|Karron Johnson and Shaw head to Winston-Salem in an import CIAA conference matchup vs. WSSU on Wednesday (N&O Photo)|
Wednesday night’s matchup between Winston-Salem State and Shaw will be about as high stakes as a regular season conference game can get.
The two teams enter their first game of the season tied for first place in the CIAA. Both teams saw lengthy winning streaks come to an end on Saturday as they suffered their first conference losses of the season. WSSU (13-3, 6-1) came up on the short end of a 63-61 score on the road at St. Aug on Saturday, snapping a 12 game winning streak and ultimately dropping eight spots in the Division II polls.
Shaw (12-5, 6-1), last season’s regular season champion, had the chance to seize sole possession of first place after WSSU’s loss, but failed to take care of business on it’s home gym, losing 76-70 against Livingstone.
These two teams have a recent history against each other. Shaw won the 2011 CIAA tournament title, and after winning the 2012 regular season title, looked poised repeat that feat last February. WSSU had other plans, upending Shaw in the conference semifinals en route to winning the conference title and making a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, Shaw is coached by Cleo Hill Jr, who shares the same name as his father, a Winston-Salem State legend.
Having a chance to see both teams play, I expect a good game. Shaw won’t dominate WSSU like it did to Virginia Union a few weeks back. And this season’s trend says WSSU probably won’t get pounded on the boards as they did against St. Aug.
I think this game comes down to individual matchups, two in particular. Can WSSU freshman Michel-Ofik Nzege slow down seasoned Shaw big man Karron Johnson? And which guard tandem will control the perimeter-Shaw’s Curtis Hines and Latrail McCoy or WSSU’s Justin Glover and Marcus Wells?
WSSU is at home in the CE Gaines Center, where they are undefeated, but Shaw is battle tested after having played 12 of the first 13 games on the road. The two teams should definitely be focused, as the loser would put themselves behind in a race that could go a long way toward determining the conference’s regular season championship. This should be a fun, fast paced game for the fans and may go a long way towards deciding who is the top seed in Charlotte in late February.