College Basketball

Robert Davis shines for Johnson C. Smith in win against Winston-Salem State

The best passes Robert Davis made against Winston-Salem State were the ones he didn’t throw.

The J.C. Smith point guard had his biggest game as a collegian with a game-high 19 points in the Golden Bulls’ 81-78 win against CIAA South rival Winston-Salem State at a packed Brayboy Gym Wednesday. Davis, a freshman, scored 15 points in the second half, including six late to break a four-game slide.

“At practices at different times (J.C. Smith coach Steve Joyner) would get on me about not looking for myself as much,” he said. “I’m really trying to get everybody involved but they’re pressuring me to try to do it for myself. I’m working on it.”

The effort paid off for Davis and J.C. Smith (10-11, 4-6), which won its first division game in four tries. Davis hit 6-of-9 shots and all six free throws to add a new dimension to the Golden Bulls’ offense. “We’ve been talking with him a little bit about that,” Joyner said.

“He’s learning and still at his growing edge of how to run an offense and how to insert himself. He’s such a nice guy, he’s always worried about trying to get the ball to everyone else.”

Winston-Salem State closed to within 80-78 on Terrell Leach’s basket with five seconds left, but Josh Linson split a pair of free throws and the Rams’ last-ditch three-pointer missed.

Four Golden Bulls hit double figures, with Stedmon Lemon tossing in 18 points, while Markell Lotharp and Diondre Pratt added 12 and 11.

After connecting on 39.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half, J.C. Smith sizzled at 65.4 percent in the second to seize the momentum from Winston-Salem State (12-6, 5-4), which had a four-game win streak snapped. A 16-6 run to open the second half sparked by six points from Lemon energized the Golden Bulls and the Brayboy partisans.

“You’ve got to give Johnson C. Smith credit,” Rams coach James Wilhelmi said. “They turned it up offensively; they shared the basketball. They had 19 assists, they shot it well in the second half and from the beginning when they didn’t shoot the ball well they rebounded.”

Four Winston-Salem State starters reached double-digits, paced by WyKevin Bazemore’s 18 points and Javan Wells’ 15. Donta Harper added 14 and Leach 10.

Winston-Salem State outplayed the Golden Bulls in the first to take a 38-33 lead at the break. The Rams exploited J.C. Smith with balanced scoring in building an 11-point lead, but the Golden Bulls managed to stay close enough to contend.

Winston-Salem State, which hit 46.4 percent (13-of-28) of its shots in the half, stretched J.C. Smith with three-pointers (4-of-13) early, then went behind the Golden Bulls for alley-oop dunks late. Leach and Wells paced the Rams with eight and seven points while J.C. Smith reserves Pratt and Lotharp scored nine and seven. The Golden Bulls struggled to find the range offensively, mired at 15-of-38 in the half, but outscored Winston-Salem State in the paint 26-18 to lessen the damage.