SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 23 Salisbury University men's basketball team moved one step closer to back-to-back Capital Athletic Conference championships, topping third-seeded University of Mary Washington, 83-78, in a CAC tournament semifinal contest on Thursday night at Maggs Physical Activities Center.
After a quick steal and bucket for the Eagles, second-seeded Salisbury took its first lead of the day when senior Rocky Harris buried a three-pointer from the right wing. It was the first of five lead changes in the opening seven minutes, with junior Gordon Jeter connecting for three, as well, and driving to the basket for a finger roll after splitting the Mary Washington defense for an 8-6 lead.
The three-pointers started falling for the Gulls after that. A triple from junior Justin Witmer in transition, and two more from senior Kyle Savercool and sophomore Jordan Brooks moments later gave Salisbury a 17-11 lead.
Salisbury was not just about the long ball in the opening half, with Jeter finding Adrien Straughn on a back-door cut for a layup and the foul, converting for the three-point play and a 20-13 lead, less than eight minutes into the game.
Salisbury distributed the ball all game, finishing with 18 assists on 27 made field goals, led by Harris' four and three from Straughn and senior Bobby Bates.
When sophomore Chad Barcikowski hit a three from the top of the key with 11:30 showing on the clock, he was the sixth different Sea Gull to hit from beyond the arc, as Salisbury started 6-of-10 from outside, opening up a 25-15 lead.
Barcikowski scored a career-high 15 off the bench for the Gulls, connecting on 3-of-6 tries from outside. He has been rolling of late, making 15 of his last 31 three-point tries, which covers the past six games.
The Eagles (15-12) would put together a 10-0 run, covering three minutes to draw even at 25-25, but Barcikowski's tip-in put the lead back with the Sea Gulls for the rest of the half.
Jeter scored the next seven points for the Gulls, he led the way with 12 in the first half and finished with a team-high 19 in the game, and Salisbury took a 44-39 lead at halftime.
The squads traded early baskets in the second half, with the Eagles squaring the game at 49-49, and Mary Washington claimed its first lead off the half on TJ Jones' fadeway over a Sea Gull double team with 14:56 to play. But the lead would only last for a moment as the three-pointers began to fall again for the Gulls.
Barcikowski hit from the left wing, for the 52-51 lead, sparking a 9-3 run, with strong play in transition from the Gulls resulting in a Jeter slam dunk and an easy layup for Barcikowski.
The lead grew to 12 on another Barcikowski three, with eight minutes to play, as Salisbury went up 68-56 and the edge stayed in double figures, topping out at 15, until the Eagles made their closing run. A 10-2 spurt cut the Salisbury lead to 77-73 with less than two minutes to play and neither team scored over the next 90 seconds until Asa Scott dropped a layup to get the Salisbury lead down to two points with 28 seconds left.
Mary Washington was forced to foul, sending Straughn to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. Salisbury had made just 56 percent of its free throws up to that point (9-of-16), but Straughn knocked down both, building the lead back to two possessions.
Jeter intercepted a pass into the post on the other end, and the Sea Gulls knocked down four shots from the free-throw line to seal the win.
Jeter had eight rebounds and three steals to go with his 19 points, while Witmer finished with 13 points and May had 12. Eight different Sea Gulls made a three-point field goal in the contest.
Mark Madison and TJ Jones led the way for the Eagles in the game, scoring 24 and 23 points, respectively.
The CAC championship game will be played on Saturday, February 27 at top-seeded Christopher Newport University, beginning at 2 p.m. The Sea Gulls will be searching for the third CAC title in program history in the game.