By Zach Gilleland
The Salisbury University women’s basketball team won its third-straight game Wednesday night, with defense guiding the team to a 72-36 win in their Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) opener against St. Mary’s.
The teams met twice last season with Salisbury winning both games by double-digits. After a season in which both teams failed to achieve a winning season in conference play, a win in the CAC opener seemed crucial.
Even with the Sea Gulls setting a season-high in points, the defense was consistent throughout the night, limiting the Seahawks to just 12 field goals offensively. St. Mary’s offense was forced into tough shots, and the team shot under 28 percent from the field.
Salisbury Head Coach Kelly Lewandowski employed a full-court press that produced 32 turnovers and made it difficult for the Seahawks to move the ball around effectively. The Sea Gull offense fed off of the defense, producing 39 points off of turnovers.
“Just to keep the pressure on,” junior point guard Mary McDonagh said about the team’s defensive game plan. “Really make them uncomfortable and make them force a lot of turnovers.”
After a jump shot by senior guard Lauren Rothfeld made it 4-3, the Sea Gulls never relinquished the lead. Salisbury’s offense spread the ball around, with all of its starting-five scoring in the first quarter.
After opening the second quarter with a 20-11 lead, the Sea Gull offense stalled. Salisbury could not find open shots, connecting on just two of its 21.
St. Mary’s was unable to take advantage, with the Salisbury defense holding them to three field goals in the quarter. After sluggish play by both teams, the Sea Gulls went into halftime with a 27-18 lead.
“I think that we got comfortable with how easy it felt coming off the first quarter,” Coach Lewandowski said. “I think we weren’t really focused and executing and finishing our shots.”
Coming into the second half the Salisbury offense seemed rejuvenated. McDonagh opened up the scoring with a layup, and then the guard connected on multiple three-pointers to force the lead to 17.
“We knew we needed to come out better and bring the intensity,” McDonagh said.
From there the Sea Gulls went on an 18-4 run in a five minute span. After mustering seven points in the previous quarter, Salisbury responded with 32 points in the third.
“Being more aggressive, keeping the energy up, taking the right shots, moving the ball and finding the open player helped,” Coach Lewandowski said. “I think our press and our defense really fed into our offense.”
With a big lead in the fourth quarter, Lewandowski turned to her bench, allowing more players an opportunity for playing time. 16 Sea Gulls saw the court with 12 finding the basket.
Rothfeld and McDonagh led the Sea Gulls offensively with 17 and 14 points respectively. Rothfeld led the defensive effort with seven steals, while sophomore forward Kaylyn French provided 10 rebounds.
A good sign for Salisbury was its ability to shoot free throws. The Sea Gulls took advantage of their opportunities and shot 85 percent from the foul line.
Next up the Sea Gulls will be on the road as they take on Penn St. Harrisburg on Saturday. Both teams split their meetings a season ago with each winning at their own home court.
“It’s great being 1-0 in the conference,” McDonagh said. “I think everyone wants to build off of it and onto the next game on Saturday.”