SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's basketball team pushed its season-opening winning streak to five games on Tuesday night, toppling No. 2 Virginia Wesleyan College in the Sea Gulls' home opener, 71-60. The win gives Salisbury a 5-0 start for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
The win is the 17th all-time for the Sea Gulls against Virginia Wesleyan and the third in the last five years, with all three of those recent wins coming against Marlins teams which were ranked No. 1 or 2 at the time of the game.
Early suffocating defense by the Sea Gulls led to six Virginia Wesleyan turnovers and a 1-for-5 start from the floor. Senior Rocky Harris had a pair of steals during the early run, with Salisbury opening a 14-6 lead just five minutes into the contest.
In the first half, the Sea Gulls (5-0) forced 14 Marlin turnovers resulting in 17 Salisbury points.
The Marlins (2-2) put together a run to cut the lead to 16-14, but senior Justin May drained a contested, fall-away three-pointer just in front of the Virginia Wesleyan bench as the shot clock was about to expire pushing the edge back to five near the midway point of the first half.
The Sea Gulls held a narrow lead through the next four minutes until Virginia Wesleyan's Nick Doyle hit a three from the left wing off Tim Jones' drive and kick to tie the game with 6:30 left in the half.
Jordan Brooks, with a power drive down the right wing and the layup, after Harris' fourth steal of the half, gave the Gulls the lead again, at the 5:33 mark.
The Marlins got their first lead of the game with 4:17 left, but Salisbury put together a 10-2 run to close the period, opening a seven-point edge at halftime, 35-28, with Harris leading the way with nine points and five steals.
The lead reached 12 points early in the second half when Harris closed out on Keijon Honore, who spotted up for a three from the top of the key. Harris rejected the effort, his first block of the year, grabbed the rebound and found Adrien Straughn for the easy layup in transition for the 41-29 lead just over two minutes into the half.
The advantage remained in double figures until a ball reversal set up Jones in the right corner for a three for the Marlins, cutting the lead to 44-36.
But on the next possession, Savercool sent home a triple of his own, from in front of the SU bench, and got the lead back to 11.
Salisbury kept the advantage above 10 with junior Gordon Jeter making a move in transition to get to the basket and dropping in a layup while getting fouled and hitting the free throw, for a 54-38 lead – the 16 points marked the largest lead of the night to that point.
Jeter led a balanced offensive attack for Salisbury, scoring 14 points, as five Sea Gulls finished in double figures.
Key shooting from outside, with Witmer hitting a pair of threes, was key down the stretch. Witmer was 4-of-6 from outside on the night, to finish with 13 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out a game-high three assists.
The lead continued to grow for Salisbury until Straughn topped it out at 21 points, driving down the lane, making the off-balance layup while getting fouled and completing the three-point play for a 65-44 lead with less than seven minutes to play.
Virginia Wesleyan chipped away, getting its deficit down to 11 in the closing minute, but never truly threatened to take the lead in the second half.
Harris finished the game with 10 points and a career-high seven steals. Savercool has 12 points and six rebounds while Straughn scored 11, had four rebounds and three steals.
The Sea Gull defense forced 22 Virginia Wesleyan turnovers on the night, while holding the Marlins' leading scorer Khory Moore to a season-low 10 points.
Salisbury returns to action next Wednesday, December 2, heading south for the Capital Athletic Conference opener at Christopher Newport University.