NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A team effort of clutch free throws and strong defense down the stretch along with a career night from senior Julia McLaughlin earned the Salisbury University women's basketball team its fourth win of the season on Wednesday evening, as the Sea Gulls defeated Christopher Newport University, 54-48, in their Capital Athletic Conference opener.
McLaughlin tallied a career-high 27 points in the contest, surpassing her previous mark of 22 points she set against Virginia Wesleyan College on November 14, 2015.
To start the game, Salisbury went on a 6-2 run, led by four points from McLaughlin, but Christopher Newport retaliated with an 11-2 run to go up 13-8 late in the first quarter. Two three-pointers from McDonagh kept the Captains from building on its lead in the first, as the Sea Gulls tied the game at 13-13 heading into the second.
The second quarter consisted of back-and-forth play from both teams, with eight lead changes in the period. Christopher Newport built the largest lead of the quarter when layups from Byrd and Sam Porter put Christopher Newport up 19-15 early in the second. A layup from sophomore Morgan Grubb and an three-point play from McLaughlin put Salisbury back on top, 20-19, and the Gulls would take a 29-28 advantage into halftime.
The third quarter was similar to the second, as there were five lead-changes within the first five minutes of the period. Salisbury took a 34-32 lead at the 4:18 mark after a McLaughlin free throw, but CNU closed out the quarter with a 10-5 run, taking a 42-39 advantage heading into the fourth.
The Sea Gulls fought back in the final quarter, tying the game at 44-44 with just over three minutes left in regulation. But Christopher Newport took a 47-46 lead over Salisbury with 1:38 to go after a free throw from Devon Byrd.
SU answered back 18 seconds later when McLaughlin hit a contested jumper in the lane off an assist from McDonagh which gave Salisbury a 48-47 advantage.
On the next possession for the Captains, the Sea Gull defense came up big, as McLaughlin tallied a block on the left baseline and a subsequent steal in the corner when she disrupted an attempted handoff, getting Salisbury the ball back.
Bryce was fouled, and after making her first free throw to build the Sea Gulls' lead to 49-47, McLaughlin grabbed an offensive rebound on the second attempt from Bryce and dished the ball to McDonagh, who was fouled and sent to the charity stripe. McDonagh cashed in both of her free throws to put the lead at 51-47 before free throws from Rothfeld and McLaughlin put the game out of reach.
Along with her 27 points, McLaughlin posted seven rebounds and a team-high four steals, while Rothfeld tallied six points, eight rebounds, and three steals. McDonagh was the second-leading scorer for the Gulls, scoring nine on the evening.
Salisbury will turn around and travel to western Maryland to take on Frostburg State University on Saturday, December 5 for another CAC matchup. That game is set for 1 p.m.