Strong defense pushes No. 17 Gulls past Lions, 78-55

Strong defense pushes No. 17 Gulls past Lions, 78-55

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – A stifling defensive effort that caused 28 turnovers, including 17 steals, guided the No. 17 Salisbury University women's basketball team to a 78-55 triumph over Penn State University-Harrisburg in Capital Athletic Conference play on Sunday afternoon. 

Getting off to a slow start, the Sea Gulls (16-1, 10-0 CAC) found themselves trailing early, 5-0, to the Lions before cutting away at the deficit. After a good jumper by senior Melanie Mocniak and a drive for two down the lane by senior Anna Hackett, sophomore Lauren Rothfeld would tie the game back up, 6-6, with a jumper at the 14:00 mark. 

Pushing the ball the other way, PSU (4-13, 3-7 CAC) took the lead right back on its next possession, forcing Head Coach Kelly Lewandowski to use her first timeout. Making adjustments, Salisbury came out of the timeout to take its first lead of the game, 9-8, off a three-pointer from the left wing by senior Sarah Seipp, a lead the Gulls wouldn't give up for the remainder of the game. 

The three from Seipp kicked off an 11-point run for Salisbury, pushing the score to 17-8 by the midway mark of the first half. Following the Seipp basket, the Gulls cashed in for back-to-back three-point plays, one by Hackett drawing the foul on a good layup in transition and one by Rothfeld drawing the foul on another layup after senior Courtney McManus made the steal at midcourt. Capping off the 11-0 run was Rothfeld at the top of the key for a good jumper. 

The Gulls reached their first double-digit lead of the game with five minutes left in the first half, when Seipp found room down the lane to put up a floater for two points and a 25-15 advantage. 

Pushing the tempo up to the final minute until the break, SU maintained the 10-point lead before the Lions connected on two three-pointers to cut the deficit to four at the half, 33-29. 

Keeping in mind the way the first half ended, Salisbury opened up the final 20 minutes with a 11-0 run to spread the score to 15 points, 44-29. After a PSU turnover to start the second half, Hackett started the scoring off with a layup before McManus connected on a three-pointer on the next series. Junior Julia McLaughlin, McManus and Hackett all added another basket apiece prior to the Lions getting their first points of the second half. 

By the 8:29 mark, the Gulls' quick tempo had pushed the advantage to 20 points off a McLaughlin jumper. But SU didn't slow down there, getting its biggest lead of the game two minutes later. Forcing a turnover, Seipp pushed the ball to the other end for a transition layup and a 26-point lead, 67-41. 

Salisbury wrapped up its scoring with 55 seconds left on the clock, as senior Theano Alvanos drove down the lane to kick it to the left wing where freshman Mary McDonagh was waiting to cash in on the three-pointer and the 78-55 victory. 

Seeing all players on the squad get playing time, 13 Sea Gulls recorded points in the game. Hackett, Seipp and Rothfeld all hit double-figure points for the day with 15, 14 and 13, in that order. Rothfeld also set a career high in blocks with four, while Hackett and her both tallied a game-high four steals. 

The Sea Gulls head back to Salisbury for a two-game home stretch. The women will take on St. Mary's College of Maryland on Wednesday, January 28 for their next game. Salisbury defeated the Seahawks, 69-58, in the first half of league play. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m., in Maggs Physical Activities Center. 

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