Though Randolph-Macon could point to its amazingly difficult schedule to explain its 3-5 start (the combined record of their first nine opponents was 59-19), the Jackets were much more introspect coming into the home game against 9-1 Salisbury (Md.) Wednesday night.
"We worked hard to play our game," said forward Andre Simon, a game consisting of pressure defense, transition, limiting opponents shot opportunities and counting on their inside-out approach to generate offense.
The Jackets fired on all cylinders Wednesday, defeating Salisbury 77-55 to improve to 4-5 overall.
"Tonight was the first time this year we played consistently our game over 40 minutes," said Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis.
Facing another possible mountain to climb when the Sea Gulls took a 24-17 lead halfway through the first half, the Jackets went on a 22-6 run in the last 8:56, fueled by two straight traditional three-point plays by Simon to give R-MC a 25-24 lead.
Dylan Robeson answered with a three-point shot to give Salisbury what would be their final lead at 27-25. The Jackets rallied in a stretch that included a basket by Simon, a Dylan Cole block, two missed free throws by Salisbury center Trent Epps, and a stretch where Joe Hassell tallied a basket, two free throws and three rebounds. When Hassell ended the scoring with a layup with one second left, the halftime tally was 39-30.
The Jackets quickly opened the lead to 12 before Salisbury mounted its best comeback attempt of the second half, scoring seven unanswered to cut the Macon lead to 47-43. But the Jackets stopped the rally, and went on a tear.
Over the next 5 1/2 minutes, the Jackets went on a 14-0 run, and when the Sea Gulls took a timeout at 6:53 to go, it was 61-43.
Transition baskets picked up in the final minutes as, eventually, benches were emptied and everyone got playing time. The Jackets found it a much easier go cutting toward the basket for extra passes to open teammates for layups, including two by Andre Simon that were eye-popping.
Also in double figures were Hassell with 13 points and Connor Sullivan with 10. The Jackets outrebounded Salisbury 41-28.
Tomorrow begins a mandatory week off for the Christmas holiday. The Jackets return to practice on December 27th to prepare for their annual Coaches Classic, which begins December 29th at 3pm when R-MC takes on Washington College.
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