DOVER, Del. – A strong second half and a career night by sophomore Lauren Rothfeld pushed the No. 17 Salisbury University women's basketball team past Wesley College Wednesday night, 61-43, to remain unblemished in the Capital Athletic Conference.
With the victory and their perfect 15-0 record in the league, the Sea Gulls (21-1) clinched the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the conference tournament set to begin on February 24. Receiving a first-round bye, Salisbury will host the winner of a first-round game between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds on Thursday, February 26 in Maggs Physical Activities Center.
A slow start to the game didn't see scoring start until three minutes in when senior Anna Hackett connected on back-to-back jumpers to take the 4-0 lead, but the Wolverines' Alexus Stroud answered with a layup and three-pointer to give Wesley the lead back by the 14:23 mark.
The lead would change six times through the first half with the result through the first 20 minutes being a 25-25 bind at the break. Rothfeld and Hackett paced the Gulls at the half with seven points apiece, as Salisbury shot 30.6 percent from the field. But Rothfeld was just heating up, as the sophomore forward led the SU offensive surge in the second half.
Stingy defense opened the final 20 minutes of play, as seniors Sarah Seipp and Courtney McManus and junior Julia McLaughlin all forced steals and the defense as a whole held the Wolverines scoreless until the 15:47 mark. During the scoreless drought for Wesley, the Sea Gulls spread the advantage to five, 30-25, off a layup and a three-pointer by Rothfeld.
The Wolverines would find some scoring though, taking back the lead with 14 minutes left, but that was the last time the Sea Gulls trailed for the remainder of the game. Just seconds after losing the lead, Salisbury ignited a 12-0 run kicked off by McLaughlin with back-to-back baskets. Senior Melanie Mocniak cashed in on a three-pointer for her addition to the run before Rothfeld connected on another three. Senior Aleisha Hobbs capped off the run with two free throws, making the score 43-32 with 9:46 left in the game.
The Sea Gulls sealed the game with one more double-digit run, this time 10, through a three-minute span, led off by Hackett on a good jumper. McLaughlin cashed in on four points in the run, while Mocniak and Hobbs both contributed baskets.
Senior Theano Alvanos capped off the scoring for Salisbury with two free throws with 47 seconds remaining, sealing up the 61-43 victory.
Rothfeld put together a career night, setting a new mark in points with 17, while netting a career-high in three-pointers with three. McLaughlin tallied her first double-double of the season, recording 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Hobbs chipped in with 10 points.
Hackett, along with her nine points and three rebounds, finished with two assists, which moves her into a tie for No. 3 in program history in the category with Amy Campion (1999-2003), who finished her career with 472.
The Sea Gulls head back home for their next game on Saturday, February 14, as Salisbury welcomes Frostburg State University to Maggs for another CAC tilt. The game is the women's Play4Kay pink game, as well as Senior Day. Come out wearing your pink and help the fight against breast cancer, while the Gulls recognize six seniors on their careers. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.