SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's basketball team advanced to its first NCAA Division III tournament since the 1996-'97 season and will take on Eastern Connecticut State University in first-round action at Trinity (Conn.) College in Hartford, Connecticut; the game is scheduled for Friday, March 6 at 5:30 p.m.
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How we got here
Salisbury garnered the Capital Athletic Conference's automatic bid into the national tournament, defeating Christopher Newport University 58-57 on a pair of clutch free throws from junior Wyatt Smith with 0.7 seconds left in the game. Smith and junior Adrien Straughn led a 7-0 run to end the game, bringing Salisbury back from a six-point deficit with 1:45 to go. Sophomore Gordon Jeter led the team with 14 points in the game, while Smith added 12 points and eight rebounds.
How they got here
Eastern Connecticut State earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, after going 22-5 in the regular season. After winning a first-round Little East Conference Tournament game against the University of Southern Maine 80-39, the Warriors fell in a semifinal contest to Keene State College 81-63 on February 27.
The Sea Gulls and Warriors have only played once, with Eastern Connecticut coming out with a 75-55 victory.
The last time we met
The Sea Gulls and the Warriors previously played on January 2, 2013; the game was a part of the Sponaugle New Year Tournament in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Eastern Connecticut took the game 75-55, after jumping out to a 43-26 lead in the first half. Travon Vann led the Sea Gulls with 21 points in the game, while tying for a team-high four rebounds and passing out a team-best four assists.
Hitting the mark
This season, Salisbury is shooting 46.0 percent from the floor, giving the Gulls their best field-goal percentage since the team shot 46.2 percent in the 1992-'93 season. Salisbury has hit 664 shots, the most in seven seasons, on only 1,444 attempts. The Sea Gulls ranked second in the CAC with the percentage, while also being the third-best three-point shooting team, with a 36.1 percent clip from behind the arc. The three-pointer is a big part of SU's game, as the Gulls took 632 on the year for second-most in the conference.
Reaching new heights
Salisbury posted a 14-4 record in the conference, this season, setting a new record for the program for CAC wins in a single season. The previous high of 12 was accomplished in the 1995-'96 and 1996-'97 seasons. The Sea Gulls also reached the 20-win mark this season for the first time since '96-'97, which is also the last time that the Gulls advanced to the NCAA tournament. In that season, Salisbury won three games and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Scouting Eastern Connecticut
The Warriors enter the tournament with the 13th-best scoring margin in the country of 13 points per game. They average 75.4 points per game, while holding opponents to only 62.4 points per game. Hugh Lindo averages a double-double for Eastern Connecticut, with 11.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. He ranks eighth in the country in total rebounding and ranks sixth with 4.1 offensive rebounds per game. The Warriors are led in scoring by Trachone Preston with 17.2 points per game.
The winner will move on to the second round of the tournament and take on the winner of another first-round game between Trinity and Colby-Sawyer College. The Bantums and Chargers will square off in Hartford on Friday at 7:30 for game two of the night.