SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's basketball team will play host to the Capital Athletic Conference championship game against Christopher Newport University on Saturday, February 28, marking the first time that the Gulls will play in the conference's title game since the 2005-'06 season; the opening tip is set for 4:30 p.m.
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How we got here
The Sea Gulls hosted a CAC semfinal contest on Thursday, after earning a first-round bye as the tournament's No. 2 seed. Junior Wyatt Smith posted his eighth double-double of the season (24 points and 14 rebounds) to lead the Gulls past sixth-seeded University of Mary Washington 59-52 in Maggs Physical Activities Center. Junior Kyle Savercool provided strong minutes off the bench, scoring 11 points and hitting three long-distance shots, along with three rebounds and a steal.
How they got here
Christopher Newport, the fourth seed in the conference tournament, defeated Wesley College in the first round, 87-81, before moving on to the other semifinal contest. The Captains traveled to top-seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland, before downing the Seahawks 83-69. The game was close throughout, but in the final six and a half minutes, the Captains went on a 29-16 run to pull away and close the game. Aaron McFarland led CNU with 20 points, as three Captains reached double figures in the game.
The Sea Gulls and the Captains have played 30 times in their history, with CNU taking 23 of those games, but since Christopher Newport joined the CAC last season, Salisbury holds a 3-1 record in conference play. SU won both games between the two schools this season.
The last time we met
Salisbury took a 64-57 overtime victory against Christopher Newport in the second meeting between the teams this season on February 4. Sophomore Justin Witmer hit five threes and led the Sea Gulls with 17 points, while Smith chipped in with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Conor Strickland hit a three and two free throws in the overtime period to provide the final push past the Captains. As a team, Salisbury shot 44 percent from behind the arc in the game.
Live by the three
The three-point shot has been an instrumental part to Salisbury's success this season. The Gulls have taken 620 threes this season, second most in the CAC, while shooting 36.3 percent from long range, which ranks third in the league. SU has taken 20 or more threes in 24 games this season, including three games of 30 or more. Witmer leads the team with 74 three-point makes on 173 attempts and ranks second with a 42.8 shooting percentage from behind the arc.
Continuing the trend
After hosting both a men's and women's CAC semifinal contest for the first time in the same season in program history on Thursday, the team's will repeat the feat on Saturday in their respective championship contests, marking the first time in program history both basketball CAC championships will take place in Maggs in the same year. The SU women's team defeated York College of Pennsylvania on Thursday to advance to its CAC title game, which is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. With a win, the men would reach the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 1996-'97 season, which would also mark the first time in program history that the men's and women's teams would notch 20-plus wins in the same season.
The Captains come into the game leading the conference with 692 three-point attempts, ensuring that the game will feature plenty of long-range looks. They are shooting 34.1 percent from behind the arc on the year. Marcus Carter is leading the team with 13.1 points per game, while three other CNU players are averaging double-digit scoring, as well. Christopher Newport enters the championship matchup on a three-game winning streak, including its two CAC tournament wins.
The winner of the game will earn the conference's automatic bid in to the NCAA Division III tournament and would look to the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 2 at 12 p.m., for its first-round matchup. A win would mark the first CAC title for the SU men since the 1995-'96 season and the first NCAA tournament berth since the 1996-'97 season.