By Lucas McCoy
The Salisbury University men’s basketball team defeated St. Mary’s College (Md.) Wednesday evening by a score of 64-59 in their closest game so far this season. The victory gives the Sea Gulls a perfect 5-0 record and a 1-0 start in Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) play.
The Sea Gulls started the game off slow offensively, falling behind 5-0 in the first five minutes of the game. Junior forward Chad Barcikowski, who averages 16.5 points per game (PPG) this season, found himself in foul trouble early on after receiving three personal fouls in the first few minutes. Salisbury’s leading scorer only played a total of two minutes in the first half.
SU Head Coach Andrew Sachs was not pleased with his team’s offensive performance early on the game and quickly called a timeout after the first five minutes. The Sea Gulls responded and came out firing on all cylinders afterwards, ultimately ending the half on a 33-14 run.
“I told them [in the timeout] we had to move the ball inside, we just had to start it from the inside,” Coach Sachs said. “We got guys that can shoot the ball. I have no problem shooting 3’s, but the ball has to go inside first and then we can see how they are going to play us.”
The second half became a different story for both teams. St. Mary’s (4-2, 0-1) came out hot offensively, taking advantage of Salisbury’s 15 second half turnovers. St. Mary’s made the SU turnovers count, scoring 16 total points from fast breaks alone.
The Seahawks took the lead by six with about 10 minutes remaining in the game, but the Sea Gulls displayed composure to get back in control of the game.
The Sea Gulls rallied back starting with the help of senior forward Wyatt Smith and junior power forward Barry Bratten.
Smith was dominant in the post to close out the game, scoring six different times from inside the paint and finishing overall shooting nine of 16 from the floor for a total of 22 points. Bratten also made some tough shots from inside the lane as well as converting four important free throws down the stretch, finishing with a career-high 13 points.
Veteran leadership and poise from senior guard Justin Witmer and senior forward Gordon Jeter was key for the Sea Gulls to hold on to the lead and close out the game.
“We kind of got complacent being up 14 going into the second half,” Witmer explained.
“We needed to have a little bit more energy and didn’t really bring it. That’s how we let them back into it. It’s a big conference win though and a win at home in front of the home crowd is always good, so we just want to keep it rolling.”
Witmer knocked down a clutch three-pointer to extend the Sea Gulls’ lead to nine with just four minutes remaining, quieting Seahawk hopes of a comeback. Jeter also played an aggressive game, leading the team with eight rebounds as well as shooting a perfect four for four from the free throw line.
“They stepped the pressure up on us really good in the second half, and they got out in transition and made layups,” Jeter said.
“We have to get better, but this win for us is huge. This time last year we lost, so we just have to keep it going. If we can carry this over to the next practice and learn from it, we can keep stretching this out.”
A few positive takeaways for the Sea Gulls from this game are that they shot almost 90% from the free throw line (26-30) as well as out-rebounding St. Mary’s by 10 (43-33).
The Sea Gulls will next begin a two-game road trip, starting with a game at Penn St. Harrisburg on Saturday. The Sea Gulls beat the Lions on their home court by 24 points last season and will look to repeat that performance this Saturday.