STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Sophomore guard Tom DeCiantis posted a career-high 16 points on 6 of 6 shooting as Rhode Island College knocked off Salem State 77-60 in the first round of the Division III tournament Friday evening.

RIC improved to 23-6 on the year while Salem State (20-8) sees its season come to a close with the loss.

“We came out ready to go and jumped on them with our defensive intensity to build a 25 point lead in the first half,” coach Bob Walsh said. “We held them to 30 percent shooting for the game, and to do that in an NCAA tournament game is really impressive. So many guys helped us tonight and when we are balanced and we defend like that, we are tough to beat.”

Mired in poor shooting, the Vikings connected on just 7 of 23 first-half shots, while the Anchormen opened up an early 14-4 lead after the first six minutes, powered by three baskets from DeCiantis, including two from long range. After a Salem State basket by senior forward Brian Clark and a media timeout, the Anchormen exploded for 13 unanswered points to take a commanding 27-6 lead with 10:16 left to play in the opening frame. 

After the two teams traded baskets on both ends, consecutive jumpers by sophomore guard Avery King and another DeCiantis bomb gave RIC its biggest lead 42-17 with 3:21 to go in the stanza. The Vikings were able to close the half on a 10-2 run thanks to eight consecutive points from junior guard Justin Nieves cutting the lead to 17 entering the intermission.

The lead would prove to be insurmountable for Salem State. After a layup from senior forward Mason Choice gave RIC a 21-point lead, the Vikings used a 15-6 run to close the deficit to 12 points, making it 54-42. The run, however, took over eight minutes to form, and with 10:27 left, junior guard Ethan Gaye (Providence, RI) banked home a three that led to a series of trips down the floor where the teams would trade baskets. Finally, RIC was able to muster a 7-1 run that ended at the 4:39 mark to go back up by 19, 68-49, essentially putting the game out of reach. The Vikings cut the lead to as few as 14 while the Anchormen went back up by 20 in the waning moments, before settling for the 77-60 final.

Rhode Island College was lights out from the floor, as it shot 55 percent (26 for 47) throughout the game. The Vikings, on the other hand, shot just 30 percent (17 for 47) from the field. Salem State also struggled mightily from beyond the arc, shooting just 13 percent (2-for-15), while the Anchormen shot 53 percent (9-for-17) from downtown. Salem State did most of its work from the free throw line where they shot 75 percent (24-for-32), while RIC shot 67 percent (16-for-24) from the charity stripe.

Aside from DeCiantis’ hot-shooting effort, the Anchormen also got an outstanding outing from Choice, who finished with 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Senior center Mike Akinrola posted 14 points and nine rebounds, while King added 11 points off the bench. Junior guard Tahrike Carter tallied eight points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the win.

Nieves led the Vikings with 16 points, while Clark added 14 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Andrew White and junior guard Tavone Wynder each chipped in with eight points.