SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's basketball team earned a key late-season win in Capital Athletic Conference play on Saturday afternoon, taking down the University of Mary Washington, 76-68.
The win, coupled with Southern Virginia University's loss at Penn State University-Harrisburg, gives the Sea Gulls (16-5, 9-5 CAC) a two-game cushion in their efforts to gain the No. 2 seed in the upcoming CAC tournament; Christopher Newport University has clinched the top seed.
Mary Washington (11-10), Southern Virginia, and Harrisburg are tied for third in the standings, each with a 7-7 conference mark.
Saturday's game opened with the Gulls coming out energized on both ends of the floor to grab the early lead, but would need to hold off a second-half push to claim the win.
Senior guard Adrien Straughn picked up a steal in the open seconds, the first of seven of the day for the Gulls, before classmate Rocky Harris drained a three-pointer at the other end. Salisbury was good on nearly 45 percent of its first-half three-point tries, with Straughn hitting all three of his tries from outside in the first 20 minutes.
The game was tied at 9-9 six minutes into the game, but the Gulls used a 14-5 run to open up a nine-point lead, 23-14. It was three-pointers by junior Gordon Jeter, Straughn, and sophomores Jordan Brooks and Chad Barcikowski that made the run happen.
The lead hit 10 points and remained in Salisbury's favor throughout the remainder of the half.
It appeared some of the momentum may head to the Mary Washington locker room, when Mark Madison hit a jumper with five seconds left, but Straughn would connect on his third three of the first half, tossing a shot up from 60 feet, making the half-court try giving the Gulls the 43-30 lead at the break.
Straughn scored 11 in the opening half while Jeter was good for 14 and eight rebounds – six on the offensive end – in the first 20 minutes. Salisbury forced six Mary Washington turnovers which led to 11 Sea Gull points in the first half.
In the second half, the Eagles chipped away, ultimately tying the contest with 9:47 left in game. It was one of five ties in the closing 10 minutes, while the lead changed hands six times.
The Eagles grabbed their first lead of the game on Madison's lay-up with 8:28 left and it went back and forth from there.
Straughn scored in transition as he was slipped a pass by Harris for the quick two, giving Salisbury a 63-61 lead with two minutes left. The Eagles would tie the game on a pair of free throws from TJ Jones, but Harris would give the Gulls the lead for good.
Jeter drove into the lane and kicked out to a wide open Harris in front of the Salisbury bench. He calmly knocked down the three, for the 66-63 lead.
The Eagles would get one point on a free throw on the next possession before Jeter got fouled near the top of the key, and made both free throws of the one-and-one for the 68-64 edge, and the Eagles could not get the deficit under four points the rest of the way.
Jones had a three-point try for Mary Washington, with 1:04 left, but the rebound caromed over the backboard for Salisbury's possession, and it was free throws that sealed the win for the Gulls from there.
Salisbury hit seven of its final eight free-throw tries to lock up the win.
Jeter scored 20 to lead all scorers, to go with 12 rebounds and three assists, while Straughn finished with 17 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals. Harris also scored 11 points, hitting three three-pointers in the game.
Eric Shaw paced the Eagles with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Jones had 16 points and Madison finished with 15.
The Sea Gulls return to action on Wednesday, February 10, hosting Wesley College in a contest scheduled to tipoff at 7:30 p.m.