SALISBURY -- Salisbury State had a gory first half that threw a Friday the 13th scare into another standing-room only crowd at the Maggs Center last night, but the fans rested peacefully after the Sea Gulls put together a brilliant second half and ran past Salem (Mass.) State, 95-85, in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Salisbury State, ranked No. 2 in the nation, will meet No. 7 Jersey City State here at 7 tonight in an NCAA quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to next weekend's Final Four at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
Jersey City State beat Eastern Connecticut State, 92-86, in the first game of last night's doubleheader.
Salisbury State stumbled to a 48-38 halftime deficit, making four of 16 free throws, 38.4 percent of their field-goal attempts, and 14 turnovers. Between halves, the Sea Gulls were challenged by Pat Williams, a seldom-used senior reserve. They then pulled a transformation similar to the one that got them past Kean College in their first NCAA test last week.
Salisbury State needed less than a minute to score the first seven points of the second half. The up-tempo Sea Gulls, who came in averaging more than 100 points a game, were still down 56-53 with 16:19 to go before an 11-0 run gave them a 64-56 lead with 13:04 remaining. The spurt doomed the Vikings, who never got closer than six points.
The decisive flurry began with All-American forward Andre Foreman getting an offensive rebound and dunk in one motion. Foreman passed to to junior point guard Bret Grebowsky for a three-pointer, then got a breakaway off a steal by junior forward Kevin Cromer. Sophomore guard Dameon Ross finished the 2:27 blitz -- with two baskets.
Those six straight baskets helped the Sea Gulls shoot 69.7 percent (23-33) for the half. Defensively, Salisbury State had two steals, drew two offensive fouls and forced a 45-second violation during a sequence that displayed the talent and gall that have given 22-year coach Ward Lambert his best team.
"I can't say we've played a better half this year," said Ross. "If we put together two halves like that, someone's going to be in trouble."
In winning its 27th straight game since a Nov. 23 loss at Hampden-Sydney, Salisbury State (28-1) beat a Salem State (25-4) team that had won 21 straight and climbed to No. 12 in the national rankings.
Foreman, the all-time leading scorer in Division III history and a leading candidate for National Player of the Year, had game-high totals of 29 points and 14 rebounds. The graduate of nearby Stephen Decatur High was 13 of 18 inside the three-point line. Ross had 26 on 11 of 18 shooting, five rebounds and five assists.
Grebowsky had six assists and three huge three-pointers against a team that was collapsing inside on the 6-foot-6 Foreman. Senior center Jamie Gosweiler (Bel Air), sophomore forward Joe Zdrojewski (Arundel), junior forward Ed Farrell and Cromer had their typical unheralded contributions.
Michael Bates led Salem State with 17 points. Peter Deppisch scored 15 and had 10 rebounds for the Vikings, who had a 7-footer and 6-7 bangers, but not enough speed to keep pace with the Sea Gulls.
SALEM STATE -- Green 2-15 2-3 7, Edgehill 3-11 0-0 6, Bates 7-8 3-4 17, Rouse 1-1 0-0 2, Eitner 1-2 0-0 2, Nelson 4-5 2-2 10, Twitty 4-7 0-1 8, Ace 4-9 1-5 9, Landry 3-9 3-4 9, Deppisch 7-12 1-2 15. Totals 36-79 12-21 85.
SALISBURY STATE -- Jarrett 1-2 0-0 3, Grebowsky 3-6 0-2 9, Wolfe 0-0 1-2 1, Ross 11-18 2-2 26, Cromer 2-7 4-5 9, Farrell 2-3 2-4 6, Foreman 13-22 3-7 29, Jefferson 0-0 0-0 0, Gosweiler 3-5 0-5 6, Zdrojewski 3-9 0-0 6. Totals 38-72 12-27 95.
Halftime--Salem State 48, Salisbury State 38. 3-point goals--Salem 1-13 ( Green 1-6, Edgehill 0-5, Deppisch 0-2); Salisbury 7-20 (Grebowsky 3-6, Ross 2-5, Jarrett 1-1, Cromer 1-2, Foreman 0-4, Zdrojewski 0-2). Rebounds--Salem 43 ( Deppisch 10); Salisbury 48 (Foreman 14). Assists--Salem 14 (Edgehill 6); Salisbury 23 (Grebowsky 6). Total fouls--Salem 26; Salisbury 24. Fouled out--Batges, Grebowsky. A--1,950.