Men's basketball falls in NCAA tournament's first round to Endicott, 71-68

Men's basketball falls in NCAA tournament's first round to Endicott, 71-68

ASTON, Pa. – The No. 16 Salisbury University men's basketball team saw its season come to a close on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament, falling to Endicott College, 71-68.

Senior Wyatt Smith led the Sea Gulls (20-8), in his final game in maroon and gold, scoring 15 points as one of three Sea Gulls in double figures. Endicott was paced by Kamahl Walker, who scored a game-high 32 points.

Endicott (23-6) held a six-point lead at the halftime break, but Salisbury quickly erased that with Smith and Gordon Jeter each getting four points. Jeter's cut to the basket and layup, gave the Sea Gulls a 33-32 lead two minutes into the period, marking Salisbury's first advantage since an 18-16 lead with six minutes left in the first half.

The lead traded hands seven more times in the next seven minutes, the next time coming on Smith's three-point play, driving the right side and hitting the layup with contact, then connecting from the charity stripe for a 36-34 lead.

It was a steady diet of Smith on the blocks to begin the second half, and Salisbury scored 20 points in just over five minutes of play to begin the period.

The Sea Gull lead topped out at four points in the early moments of the second half, and Endicott was able to creep ahead as an 8-0 run was able to push it ahead, 56-49 with 10 minutes to play.

Salisbury would chip away slowly at the deficit, getting a three-point play from Terray Quickley and seven points from Jeter before Smith made a fade-away jumper on the right side to tie the game, 63-63, with two minutes to play.

But, as was the trend through the closing minutes, any time Salisbury scored, Endicott would answer. Max Motroni was good for two on the other end to put Salisbury behind, 65-63.

With one minute remaining, Jeter kicked out from the free throw line to Jordan Brooks at the top of the key and the junior buried a three-pointer for a 66-65 lead. At the other end, Walker raced in on the right baseline, slipping behind the Salisbury defense for a layup and a 67-66 lead.

Salisbury's final lead came on a pair of Jeter free throws, after a perfect feed from Justin Witmer set up the foul. However, it took just six seconds for Endicott to answer, on another Walker bucket for a 69-68 lead.

Out of its final timeout of the game, Salisbury got the ball to Smith on the left wing on a clear out. Smith drove with his left hand, and got a look at the rim with the double team coming to him. The effort just rolled off, forcing the Sea Gulls to foul.

Walker hit two free throws for a three-point cushion, 71-68, with 2.5 seconds left. Nick Gittings inbounded the length of the court, and after a deflection, Jeter came up with the ball at the free throw line. He dribbled to the right wing, but his fading three for the tie hit the iron and caromed away.

Jeter scored 13 in the game, while Witmer finished with 11.

The game opened in Endicott's favor, as Salisbury fell behind 5-0, not getting its first point until a Chad Barcikowski three-pointer with four minutes gone in the game.

The bucket sparked a 10-0 run, with four points from Smith and a bucket from Gittings to put the Sea Gulls ahead, 10-5.

Threes from Jack Ferguson and Witmer allowed Salisbury to maintain the lead until Walker tied it with a layup at the 5:35 mark of the first half and his squad used a 14-3 run to hold the 31-25 lead at halftime.

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