By Zach Gilleland
The Salisbury University men’s basketball team kicked off its season with a win Tuesday, defeating Goucher College 70-52.
In front of a large crowd at Maggs Gym, the Sea Gulls looked to build off a season ago in which Salisbury finished 21-7 and advanced to its second consecutive NCAA Tournament. A challenge for this season is that the team lost six seniors due to graduation with five being guards.
Production is leaned heavily on senior forward Gordon Jeter and senior guard Justin Witmer who were the team leaders in points per game last season. Senior forward Wyatt Smith also returns after missing all of last season with a torn labrum.
The Sea Gulls started red hot with freshman point guard Al Leder opening the game with two consecutive three pointers in his first collegiate game. Junior forward Chad Barcikowski responded with two threes of his own, and Salisbury raced to an early 11-0 lead.
The Gopher’s defensive game-plan was centered on stopping Smith. Smith was often double-teamed, allowing a Sea Gull to be open around the three-point arc.
The hot hands of Salisbury cooled down, and fouls, turnovers and missed shots allowed Goucher to make a run of its own. Behind senior guard Trey Galloway III, the Gophers outscored the Sea Gulls 16-4 in a 10-minute span, and a three-pointer by senior forward Chris Outing cut the lead to one.
Salisbury went into halftime with a 27-25 lead. The offense shot just 31 percent from the field and after starting with four consecutive three-pointers, missed 12 of their next 13 shots from behind the arc.
“In the first five minutes we came out firing and we didn’t miss but then we took our foot off the pedal,” Barcikowski said. “We came into halftime and said we have to stop turning the ball over.”
The Sea Gull offense was able to score more effectively in the second half. The offense passed the ball around more and moved the ball to the outside, but shot with better success.
Salisbury took a commanding lead by as many as 22. The hot shooting that helped the Sea Gulls early on came back to life, with Salisbury scoring 43 points in the second half.
The Sea Gulls lived and died by the three, with half of the team’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the three-point line. Barcikowski was a consistent scorer in the second half, making four-straight shots from beyond the arc.
Barcikowski and Witmer led the team with 18 and 16 points respectively. Barcikowski and Smith both finished with double-doubles, providing 10 and 12 rebounds respectively.
For Smith, he was just happy to be back on the court.
“It feels great to get back, it’s been a long time coming,” Smith said. “The energy was great, the guys on the bench and everybody was really supportive. First it feels like there’s a little bit of pressure when you’re back to get back to where you were but once you get out there and play everything settles down and I feel at home again.”
For SU Head Coach Andrew Sachs, he was pleased with his team’s performance despite the struggles. The Sea Gulls out-rebounded Goucher, a stat uncommon for Salisbury.
“I thought our effort was pretty good, we out-rebounded them by 10 and I don’t think I saw too much of that last year so that’s good,” Coach Sachs said. “We turned [Goucher] over 21 times so that’s good, we didn’t get to the foul line very much which is concerning and we turned the ball over too much but in the first game you’re going to have that.”
After their season-opening win, the Sea Gulls host the College of Staten Island in the first day of the Optimist Tournament Friday.
“We need to keep moving forward, I think we showed a lot of grit especially with them coming back in the first half,” Barcikowski said. “We made adjustments at halftime, came out in the second half and played as a team and did what we were supposed to do so hopefully we keep moving forward.”