SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's basketball team began the Josh Merkel era with a victory Tuesday night, taking down Stevenson University, 73-61, in the opening round of the Pride of Maryland Tournament.
Three players scored in double figures to lead Salisbury to the victory, led by senior Mike Maczko, who had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. In their first games as Sea Gulls senior Trent Epps and junior Elijah Gore each finished in double figures, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Sea Gulls (1-0) opened up the game with a three-pointer from senior Mike Atkins to grab a 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest. Salisbury would hold the early lead for the first seven minutes until a 12-3 run by the Mustangs (0-1) allowed them to take their biggest lead of the night, 20-14.
Epps put together five-straight points to put Stevenson's lead in doubt and Gore's lay-up with 1:30 left in the first half put the lead back in Salisbury's hands and the Gulls would not release their grip. A 10-2 run to close the first half, including two big three-pointers from senior Dylan Robeson, gave Salisbury a 36-30 lead at the break.
After the Mustangs made a run in the second half, tying the game at 45-45, Salisbury got a big basket by sophomore Tim Harwood, who finished with eight points, to break the tie and a three from Gore to regain control of the game.
Merkel was able to breathe easy in the closing moments of the win as Salisbury opened up the lead with a 15-4 run. The Sea Gulls' 60-49 advantage with 6:10 remaining was never in doubt as Salisbury continued to play aggressively, taking the ball to the hoop and getting to the foul line. The Sea Gulls connected on their final 10 free throws of the night and were 26-of-35 (74.3 percent) from the charity stripe for the night.
Salisbury advances into the winner's bracket of the Pride of Maryland Tournament, taking on Frostburg State University Friday night at 6 p.m. That game will be played at Johns Hopkins University. Frostburg defeated McDaniel College, 76-48, on Tuesday night.