By Lucas McCoy
The Salisbury University women’s basketball team defeated Catholic University Wednesday evening 64-59 one of their closer contests this season After the win over the undefeated Catholic University of America, the Sea Gulls record now stands at 6-1 (2-0 CAC).
The Sea Gulls took control of the game early with help from current CAC player of the week, senior guard Lauren Rothfeld. Rothfeld led Salisbury with 15 first half point, sinking a variety of different shots.
“I am a completely different person when I get on the court, so I just try not to think. My problem is when I think too much,” Rothfeld said. “We have a lot to work on, but I’m proud of the team that we stuck through and had a lot of heart. I am definitely happy with a win though.”
Salisbury took a 39-31 lead going into the half, but this momentum quickly changed as the third quarter began.
The Cardinals (6-1, 1-0) tightened up their defense entering the second half, forcing eight Sea Gull turnovers and quickly converting them into points. Salisbury was in foul trouble in the second half, allowing Catholic a way to get back into the game: converting free throws.
Catholic slowly dwindled the Sea Gulls’ lead down to just six points going into the fourth quarter.
Salisbury lost composure in the start of the fourth, allowing Catholic right back into the game. With 8:29 to play, the Sea Gulls were up 51-45, but Catholic went on a four minute 8-0 run putting them in the lead for the first time all game at 53-51.
With just over four minutes remaining, SU head coach Kelly Lewandowski called a timeout to pull her team together and stop Catholic’s comeback.
“We had to focus on rebounding and cutting back on our fouls. They kept being able to stop the clock and gain some extra points,” Lewandowski said. “We really just needed to settle down and talk through it, and I thought the players responded really well.”
Rothfeld made a tough jump shot tying the game at 53, but Catholic University senior guard Michelle Desantis quickly hit a three-pointer to put the Cardinals back up by three with three minutes remaining in the game.
With little time remaining for the Sea Gulls, junior forward Paige Bryce converted a layup putting the Sea Gulls down just one point at 56-55. With 1:48 remaining in the game, Salisbuy took advantage of a missed layup by Catholic, quickly sending the ball back to the other end of the court for a wide open Mary McDonagh (junior, point guard) three-pointer.
“I missed a couple shots before so I was just thinking I better make this cause we really need this one,” McDonagh explained. “Once they went on their run and came back I thought we did a really good job of getting back our lead and fighting.”
McDonagh’s three-pointer put the Sea Gulls up 58-56 with just over 1:30 to play, and it was all Salisbury from that moment on. Lauren Rothfeld connected on four clutch free throws down the stretch, ultimately never letting Catholic back into the game.
“I’ve seen seniors in the past make tough shots at the end of games like that, and I feel like as a senior now it is my duty to knock them down,” Rothfeld said. “I used to struggle a lot from the line, but I have just been putting in the work and shooting them when I am tired and that’s when it matters the most.”
Positives for Salisbury came from their ability to shoot from the outside (5-12 from three-point range) as well as converting important free throws (15-17). Salisbury also dominated in rebounds, totaling 50 on the day and out-rebounding Catholic by more than 10.
“I think this win gives us confidence. I think that we’ve now been here in tight games, so when we are in one again we have confidence we can stick with it and pull it out,” Lewandowski explained. “It gives those girls who haven’t had this experience more experience for the next one.”
Salisbury will next hit the road to take on Southern Virginia this Saturday, as both teams continue Capital Athletic Conference play. The Sea Gulls were dominant in both meetings against Southern Virginia last year, winning both by at least 20 points.