Tigers need seniors to step up
Coming off a season where they went 15-16 and split their 18 Colonial Athletic Association games, the Tigers, under the direction of head coach Joe Mathews, will start their season at home on Friday, Nov. 12, against Coppin State.
“The program has elevated itself to where you’re never in rebuilding mode, you like to think you’re in reloading mode,” said Mathews, who is entering his 10th season at Towson. “The goals that you set for your program remain the same at this point: to be competitive night in and night out, to win the games you should win, steal a few, and get better as the season progresses.”
Last season, Mathews led the Tigers to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, their first postseason birth since 1969, and won arguably the biggest game in school history when they downed No. 25 Maryland 67-55 on Dec. 10, 2009. But gone from that team are four of the starters, including all-time scoring leader Shanae Baker-Brice.
“The first thing that people are going to look at is the point guard situation, where you lose arguably the best player in the program’s history who dominated the ball for four years,” Mathews said. “I’m confident with the young people that we have and I think they’re going to step into their roles and produce over the next couple of years.”
Baker-Brice set the school’s all-time scoring mark in the Tigers’ 72-68 overtime loss to James Madison on Jan. 14. She netted a career-high 32 points that night and led the Tigers during the season by averaging 17.4 points per contest.
Baker-Brice logged 1,102 minutes last season, an average of 35.5 per game, and attempted 300 more shots than anyone else on the team.
Also gone are forwards Kandace Davis, Haliena Snowden and Katrina Wheeler, who combined to average 21.6 points and 21.5 rebounds per game in 2009-2010. The four seniors accounted for 65 percent of the Tigers’ scoring from a year ago.
“Last year’s team was as good as it was going to get from the first day of practice because of so much seniority and so much experience. We thought that we had maybe hit our ceiling early last season, but this year’s team’s ceiling is very high and there is a lot of room to grow,” Mathews said. “This is a good group, I like where we are, but I think we’ll be better in February and March than we are now. Not only is it a bunch of newcomers, but it’s a group of veterans that are in new roles. Some of our older players are going to be asked to do more this season.”
Some of the newcomers include freshman Tanisha McTiller, sophomore transfer Victoria Naylor and junior transfers Deree Fooks and Krystal Parnell, who were teammates last season at Monroe Community College. Also returning is a six-member senior class, led by Dovile Miliauskaite and Simona Petronyte.
“We’re going to be a better passing team, and although it hasn’t shown completely yet, once everyone gets settled into their roles, I think we will end up having some kids that enjoy sharing the ball,” Mathews said. “I think that on any given night we can have a different leading scorer, which is different for us. I hope that makes us harder to defend and a little more unpredictable on offense.”
The Tigers will look to make it to the NCAA Tournament at season’s end; something only James Madison, who won the conference tournament, did from the CAA a year ago.
“This is a top 10 league, if not higher. We have some really elite players that are noted as some of the countries’ best in this league and everyone is always getting better,” Mathews said. “We may take a bigger hit than anyone else, losing four starters from last year’s team, but this year, like most, we have the opportunity to send three or four teams to the NCAA Tournament, and those spots are out there for us to go conquer.”