By Zach Gilleland
The Salisbury University men’s basketball team is now 2-0 to start the season after defeating the College of Staten Island 83-65 Friday during day one of the Optimist Tournament.
Like their previous game against Goucher on Tuesday, the Sea Gulls started off strong, building an 11-3 lead. Senior forward Gordon Jeter was a consistent scorer in the first half, scoring 13 points and connecting on all five shot attempts.
His presence in the post allowed other Salisbury players to find open shots.
“It’s my job to make sure my teammates get shots,” Jeter said. “It all helps me out and opens up the floor for all of us.”
The Sea Gulls were not able to establish a comfortable lead in the first half. The Dolphins did most of their damage from inside the three-point line, shooting 52 percent from the field.
Salisbury held a five-point lead with under a minute left, but a three-pointer from Staten Island junior guard Edin Bracic trimmed the lead to two.
A buzzer beater from half-court by senior guard Frank Schettino banked in and propelled Staten Island to a 37-36 lead at halftime.
Sea Gull Senior forward Wyatt Smith got into foul trouble early, limiting his playing time to just six minutes in the first half.
Staten Island was able to capitalize off Salisbury’s foul problems with 13 of its 37 points in the first half coming from the free-throw line.
SU Head Coach Andrew Sachs was pleased with the Sea Gull offense in the first half, but wasn’t happy with his team’s defense.
“Defensively there was not enough on-ball pressure,” Sachs said. “We let them score a lot of easy baskets and we let [Staten Island] do what they do well.”
Salisbury came out strong in the second half. A block by Jeter started things off, and then a layup from the left side by junior forward Chad Barcikowski gave the Sea Gulls the lead.
Senior guard Justin Witmer added a layup in transition and a three-pointer to extend the Salisbury lead to five.
Witmer has been a reliable scoring threat for the Sea Gulls so far this season. After scoring 16 points in the season opener, the senior led the team with 19 points and connected on all six shot attempts in the second half.
“Having two big post presences in Gordon [Jeter] and Wyatt [Smith] really helps,” Witmer said. “They demand the ball inside, they’re getting easy buckets and it opens up the floor for Chad [Barcikowski] and I to get open looks, drive the ball downhill as much as we can and make inside-out threes.”
After sitting on the bench for the majority of the first half, Smith scored all of his 16 points in the second half. The forward was able to use his 6-foot-6 frame to bully defenders in the paint and drive to the basket.
Smith and Jeter in the post forced the Dolphin defense to turn their attention to the big men. This allowed open looks from the outside, and players such as Witmer and Barcikowski benefitted.
After trailing at halftime, Salisbury outscored Staten Island 47-28 in the second half. Four of the Sea Gull starting five scored in double figures.
“We tried to get in a flow, not really speed the game up, keep them on their toes and run a couple of different sets,” Witmer said. “When we found something that worked we went right back to it and kept doing it until they stopped us.”
Day two of the Optimist Tournament continues Saturday as the Sea Gulls will play Johns Hopkins in the championship game at 4 p.m.
“We’re going to try to keep it rolling,” Witmer said. “It’s two [wins] in a row now, let’s see how many we can get and try to win this championship Saturday.”