Arcadia senior guard Travis Saltus led his team in scoring in the Knights’ home opener against Ursinus College. (Photo: Tom Reifsnyder)
Tom Reifsnyder (@tom_reifsnyder)
Arcadia senior point guard Travis Saltus expected to beat Ursinus College on Saturday night, but that wasn’t a familiar feeling for he and his teammates coming into their home opener.
Arcadia took down visiting Ursinus 85-67 in their first game of the Centennial-MAC Challenge behind a balanced scoring attack led by Saltus, who had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
The Knights won just nine games last season, and have posted a sub .500 record in two of the last three years under third-year head coach Justin Scott. Saltus and his team were relieved to get the 2014-15 season started on a positive note.
“It feels great to get the win,” Saltus said. “We haven’t got like a home opener or like a first-game win ever since I’ve been here, so it feels really good to get the win.
“We played really well, and we got a win by a good amount of points so I’m really glad.”
Arcadia jumped on Ursinus early, establishing a 16-6 lead just four minutes into the first half. Seniors Saltus and Joe Brown came out firing for the Knights. Saltus scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the first half while Brown put up 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting en route to 11 points for the game.
The biggest key to Arcadia’s 51-34 halftime lead was the Knights’ ability to get to the free throw line. Arcadia shot 8-of-9 from the line in the first half while Ursinus shot just one free throw; and they missed it. Saltus was especially aggressive for Arcadia, consistently attacking the rim with his lightning-quick speed and impressive ball-handling ability.
“Driving is definitely one of the strong points of my game,” he said. “I like to attack and use my speed and agility to get to the rim.
“So I really wanted to put a big focus on taking it to the basket tonight.”
Malik Draper (16 points) and Matt Knowles (15 points) did all they could to keep Ursinus in the game, but their individual efforts weren’t strong enough to combat Arcadia’s stifling defense, which forced a whopping 21 turnovers.
Brown’s game-high 5 steals were the spark plug to Arcadia’s 32 points off turnovers. Ursinus recorded 2 steals which led to 16 points off turnovers, just half of Arcadia’s total.
Saltus’ transition game and Brown’s steals were great assets to the team’s impressive defensive effort which antagonized Ursinus all night long.
“I think the key tonight was the intensity,” Saltus said. “We were really intense out there on the defensive end; we were pushing the ball, everybody was communicating and talking on screens, and things of that nature.
“Our play on the defensive end really sparked us tonight.”
Saltus and Brown were certainly impressive, but there was no particular star of the night for Arcadia. The Knights had four players score in double-figures and 10 players log more than 10 minutes on the court.
“I think it was an overall team effort,” Saltus said. “It wasn’t really particularly one person; me, Joe Brown, Torrell [Candelaria], John Landro, and Ryan Kelley who came off the bench and did some nice things for us.
“I think everybody stepped up when their name was called so that was good.”
6-foot-2 freshman guard Sean Mayberry also looked good for the Knights, scoring 13 points on 6-of-10 from the floor.
After posting a 9-16 record in 2013-14, getting a win in the home opener may be just what Arcadia needs to get their program back on track this season.
“We had a lot of injuries and things that were going on with the team last season,” Saltus said. “And I was one of those people that got injured, so it was just a lot going on, you know, and we just wanted to come back strong tonight.
“Everybody’s back healthy and everybody’s focused now.”
Saltus and the Knights will look to improve upon their 1-0 record at Ursinus College as they take on Muhlenburg this Sunday at 1 p.m. in day two of the Centennial-MAC Challenge.