Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

Azim Jones doesn’t care too much for the spotlight. The gaudy statistics and individual accolades aren’t important when striving for the ultimate goal. The focus for Jones and the rest of the Golden Rams men’s basketball team is playing with motivation and intensity in the final few weeks of the regular season and preparing to make a run in postseason play.

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the Golden Rams continued on the road to the playoffs by dismantling a desperate Cheyney club, 72-56, in front of a packed house at Hollinger field house.

Jones finished with a career-high 22 points and provided fans in attendance with an awe-inspiring highlight reel of slam dunk after slam dunk.

“It felt real good tonight,” said Jones. “My teammates were really there for me. We are starting to really believe in ourselves. We’re putting everything we have on the court. We know we’re playing for our [postseason] lives right now.”

The Azim show played all night long, but that’s not what this win was all about.

“I don’t worry about all of the stats,” Jones said. “What matters most is winning the game. We won and I’m happy.”

The Golden Rams came out firing in the first half, shooting a torrid 59 percent in the first half. WCU (14-9, 6-2) got out to an early lead and never looked back.

“We had a ton of energy tonight. We really mixed it up a lot,” said Golden Rams head coach Dick DeLaney. “That’s the best start to finish game we had all season.”

In addition to Jones, two other Golden Rams scored in double figures. Donnell Butler posted 21 points, including four three-pointers. Shawn Werdt provided valuable bench relief, dropping 10 points and coming through on a three-point shot in the final seconds of the first half.

DeLaney has seen vast improvements from his role players in each of the last three games, something he hopes the team will build on as they ready for the playoffs.

“Our bench did a fine job,” said DeLaney. “There are guys who are seeing significant time and I think that’s important.”

For the Wolves (10-13, 3-5), it was a must-win game if they hoped to have a shot at qualifying for a PSAC playoff berth. After winning three straight games, playing away at West Chester didn’t seem like an unenviable task. A rabid fanbase even made the short trip to support the team, giving them an added boost on the floor.

The Wolves, however, seemed to make more shots with their mouths than they did with the basketball. In the early stages of the game, the Golden Rams ran the court with ease, putting the Wolves in an early 19-6 defecit. The solution the Wolves had in mind was to talk, talk and talk some more.

“If you need [trash-talking] to get you motivated, you shouldn’t be playing this game,” said Jones. “That happens when there’s a big rivalry like this.”

Whatever the Wolves tried to do – other than chatting- they weren’t finding success stopping Jones. For the game, Jones shot 9-for-11 from the floor and 4-for-5 from the foul line. As a team, WCU was getting fast breaks and open looks throughout the game, something Jones sees the team getting better at.

“We’re really improving,” he said. “The energy in practice has been there all week. There has to be intensity from the start every game.”

Although Cheyney did not find its stroke until late in the first half, draining six three point shots, WCU had the perfect anecdote in the second half.

“We needed to stop the outside shot so we doubled their best shooters,” said DeLaney.

As a result, the Wolves shot a dismal 24 percent in the second half. Guard Assad Brown led the team with 20 points.

DeLaney knows these last games don’t get any easier, but hopes his team plays as well as they did versus Cheyney, but on a more consistent basis.

“I want this [performance] every night,” he said. “Everything is a playoff game for us right now. You’re talking about four games that are going to be wars for us.”

On Saturday, the Golden Rams fell 75-65 to Mansfield Univeristy in a PSAC East contest in Mansfield, PA. Aaron Williams led the scoring with 18 points overall and nine rebounds. Mark Gerhart followed shortly behind with 14 points, while Aaron Jones contributed 13 points to the scoreboard.

This loss to Mansfield brought the Golden Rams record to 14-10 overall, 6-3 in the PSAC East Division. They were able to maintain their second place standing. They are currently one half game ahead of both Manfield and Kutztown, but are still two games behind first place East Stroudsburg.

The Golden Rams will close out their home schedule on Wednesday with a showdown with PSAC rival Kutztown. Game time is 8 p.m.

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