RICHMOND, Va. - The Salisbury University men's basketball team opened the Randolph-Macon Holiday Tournament on Monday evening, defeating Baruch College 65-51.
A free throw from Baruch's Ryan Markoe opened the scoring, but senior Conor Strickland answered quickly on the following possession with a three-point shot to take a 3-1 lead.
The teams battled back-and-forth through the opening minutes, but at the 16:34 mark, sophomore Gordon Jeter hit a layup to give the Sea Gulls the lead for good. After a Baruch turnover, Strickland drained another three for a five-point advantage.
Salisbury pushed its lead to 15-7, after a layup from junior Wyatt Smith and a three from junior Rocky Harris, but the Bearcats got back to within one with a 7-0 run. However, the Gulls held strong, as Smith nailed a three to open a 12-2 stretch, giving SU its largest lead of the first half at 10.
The long-range shot was the first of three-consecutive by Smith, which powered the run, helping to make the score 27-17 in the Gulls' favor with 3:54 left before the break. He closed the half on a three-point play, fighting off the contact for a layup and hitting the free throw, giving Salisbury a 30-23 lead going into halftime.
Smith led the team with 14 points in the period, while also pulling down four rebounds; the Gulls shot over 32 percent in the half, while scoring 21 points off of 10 Bearcat turnovers. The SU defense also held Baruch to 0-for-7 from behind the arc.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a three-pointer just 25 seconds into the frame, opening the half on a 10-3 run to cut the Salisbury lead to only two, 35-33. However, Smith continued to lead the Sea Gull offense, scoring six-straight SU points to keep the score in the Gulls' favor and take a 41-37 lead with 12:13 left in the game.
Jeter pushed the lead to six, scoring on a layup from the left post and giving SU the 43-37 advantage.
Over the next five minutes of action, sophomore Justin Witmer would drain two threes, while Jeter hit another shot from the post and Smith added two layups, including a put back after a missed three to rebuild a 10-point lead for Salisbury, 55-45, with just under five minutes left in the game.
From there, Baruch began putting SU at the foul line, but the Sea Gulls went eight-for-eight from the line and junior Kyle Savercool added a final jump shot to secure the victory.
Smith finished the game with a game-high 26 points. Jeter paced the team with nine rebounds, while Smith pulled down eight, and four Sea Gulls tied with two assists each.
The Sea Gulls will move on to the second day of the Randolph-Macon Tournament on Tuesday, taking on Carroll (Wis.) University; the opening tip is set for 5 p.m.