Strickland forces overtime as Gulls defeat Captains 64-57

Strickland forces overtime as Gulls defeat Captains 64-57

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Salisbury University men's basketball team came out victorious in a Capital Athletic Conference thriller 64-57 over Christopher Newport University on Wednesday night at the Freeman Center in a contest that went into extra time.

After a three from junior Rocky Harris put Salisbury ahead 48-40 with 8:37 remaining in the second half, CNU went on an 11-0 run to take a lead for the first time since the 15:29 mark of the first half. 

Sophomore Justin Witmer answered with a three from the left wing with the shot clock winding down on SU's next possession to regain the lead, but CNU came right back down for a long-distance shot of its own to take a 53-51 lead with 43 seconds remaining.

The Sea Gulls would not be denied, however, as senior Conor Strickland drove to the basket and converted a game-tying layup with only three seconds remaining, fighting off contact from the Captain defense to score the bucket.

Harris opened the overtime period with a jumper on the left wing just inside the three-point line, before Strickland nailed a three from the right wing for a 58-53 lead. CNU cut the lead to three, but a layup from junior Kyle Savercool, followed by two clutch free throws from Strickland secured the win for the Gulls. 

The Sea Gulls opened the game with the first points, as Strickland dribbled to the left wing and found junior Wyatt Smith in the left post for a layup. CNU answered with a three on its first possession, as the teams traded baskets and the lead seven times in the first five minutes of the half, until a three from Strickland gave SU a 9-7 advantage.

Witmer hit a long-distance shot from the left wing to cap a 7-2 run, after a steal by junior Adrien Straughn put the Sea Gulls in transition, to help Salisbury push the lead to 16-9.

Salisbury continued to build its lead, and Harris drained a left-corner three of an inbounds pass from Straughn, before following with another long-range shot from the left wing, putting the Gulls ahead by double figures, 24-14, with 7:11 left in the half.

The Captains answered with a 13-3 run over the next six minutes and 30 seconds to cut into Salisbury's lead and tie the score; Salisbury's basket came on another left-wing three from Witmer, who led the team with 11 points at halftime.

After CNU tied the score 27-27 with 41 seconds left before the break, Witmer answered with his third three of the half to give SU a 30-27 lead at the half. The Gulls were shooting 50 percent from behind the arc in the first half, while leading the rebounding margin 19-13.

The Captains cut the lead to only one to start the second period, but a layup from Smith, followed by a right-corner three from Witmer increased SU's lead to six, 35-29.

Salisbury continued to hold its lead to start the second half, as two dunks from Smith sandwiched a Straughn three-pointer to push the advantage to eight. Straughn would score on a layup, driving right to make the score 45-38, before Harris would connect to begin the late-game battle.

Witmer finished the game with 17 points to lead Salisbury, while Smith chipped in with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double.

Salisbury returns home to Maggs Physical Activities Center on Saturday, February 7 for a CAC contest with the University of Mary Washington; the opening tip is set for 4 p.m.