SALISBURY, Md. – The No. 23 Salisbury University men's basketball team travels to No. 5 Christopher Newport University on Saturday, February 27 in search of the program's third Capital Athletic Conference championship. The game is slated for a 2 p.m., tipoff.
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How we got here
Salisbury claimed the second seed in the CAC tournament with a 13-5 regular-season league record, hosting a semifinal contest on Thursday, February 25 against third-seeded University of Mary Washington. Salisbury used a 9-3 run early in the second half to pull away, pushing the lead to as many as 15 points, but the Eagles fought back. The lead was cut to two points with less than 30 seconds to play, and Salisbury hit its last six free-throw attempts to hold on for the 83-78 win. Junior Gordon Jeter hit two of the closing free throws as he led Salisbury with 19 points and eight rebounds.
How they got here
The Captains went undefeated through the CAC regular season, securing the top seed and home-court advantage in the CAC tournament. On Thursday night, the Captains held off fourth-seeded St. Mary's College of Maryland in the closing moments of their semifinal tilt. The lead never reached double figures for either team and the Captains pulled ahead by five with 25 seconds to play in the game. Delaszo Smith scored four points in the closing moments for the Seahawks to cut the lead to two and St. Mary's had a look at a 25-foot jumper to win it, but it caught the front of the rim, allowing the Captains to advance with a 57-56 victory. Tim Daly had 15 points to lead the Captains while Marcus Carter finished with a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
The Captains hold a 25-8 edge in the all-time series, dating back to the first meeting, a 69-61 Salisbury win during the 1982-83 season. Christopher Newport won the two meetings this season, snapping Salisbury's three-game winning streak in the series, as the Sea Gulls swept the three meetings during the 2014-15 year, including a 58-57 win in last year's CAC title game.
Scouting the Captains
Christopher Newport brings three players averaging double figures scoring into Saturday's game, led by Carter's 15.3 points per game. The sophomore guard pulls down 6.6 rebounds per game, which is second on the team only to Daly's 7.5. Daly also scores 12.8 points per game and the Captains get 13.7 points per game from Aaron McFarland. McFarland is one of the top three-point shooters in the nation, with a 42.5 shooting percentage from outside, ranked 20th in Division III.
Burying the three
Throughout the life of the program, the Salisbury men's basketball team has been known for hitting the outside shot, at one time making at least one three-pointer in more than 500-consecutive games. The 2015-16 season, under first-year Head Coach Andrew Sachs is no different, as the Sea Gulls have put up 25 three-point tries per game this year, making a CAC-best 36.4 percent of those tries. Recently, Salisbury has been even better, making 41.7 percent of their tries in the past eight games. Sophomore Chad Barcikowski has been good on 50 percent of his attempts in that time, making 16-of-32.
Defense wins championships
Salisbury enters the weekend with the top-ranked scoring defense in the nation, surrendering just 60 points per game, while Christopher Newport is fifth in the nation, and second in the CAC, giving up just 60.6 points per game. The Captains have not given up more than 60 points since February 10. Salisbury has allowed fewer than 60 points in 12 of the team's 26 games this year.
The winner of Saturday's championship will earn the CAC's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. With each team in the top three in the latest NCAA Middle Atlantic Region rankings, both teams have a possibility of an at-large bid, and will be watching the NCAA tournament selection show on NCAA.com on Monday, February 29 at 12:30 p.m.