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Tigers’ comeback falls just short

12 February 2012 By Sam Smith, Associate Sports Editor No Comments
Matthew Hazlett/ The Towerlight

Matthew Hazlett/ The Towerlight

At one point in Saturday afternoon’s game against James Madison, the Tigers looked as though they were going to suffer another blowout loss, similar to many they have suffered this season.

Instead, a second-half charge by the Tigers kept them in the game and the 1,364 fans in attendance on their feet right down to the last shot.

“When you are in a high-level conference, this is what conference games are like and this is the environment we will grow here. They are going to be slugfests and rock fights,” Towson Head Coach Pat Skerry said.

After a lethargic first half, Towson (1-26, 1-14 Colonial Athletic Association) battled back from a 15-point half-time deficit to take a late lead that they could not hold onto.

Down by two with three seconds left in the contest, sophomore forward Marcus Damas fielded the inbound pass from the baseline.

But his jump shot banked off the front of the rim and the Dukes (11-16, 4-11 CAA), who let an early 25-5 lead slip away, were let off the hook with a 58-56 victory at the Towson Center.

The Tigers played their most dominant game on the boards all season. Towson out-rebounded the Dukes by a 49-19 margin, collecting 28 offensive rebounds and 21 defensive boards.

“On the flip side, I can say that I have never been a part of a game where you out-rebound someone by 30 and lost,” Skerry said. “I like the way that we continued to slam the offensive glass and that got us back into the game. And we guarded in the second half, but we didn’t early.”

Senior forward Rob Nwankwo led the game with 15 rebounds.

He recorded his 11th double-double of the season by registering 15 points, including a 7-10 clip from the foul line. Damas added 14 points and six boards.

The Tigers second-half comeback can be attributed to their ability to not only get to the free-throw line, but connect at the line.

Towson entered the game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the conference, shooting at 56.8 percent.

On Saturday, the Tigers went 19-25 at the line, making 12-14 in the second half. Despite shooting 27 percent from the floor in the contest, Towson shot 76 percent from the foul line.

One of the keys to the Dukes’ success this season has been their ability to shoot from long range. Guarding against the 3-pointer is something that Skerry said would be imperative against James Madison.

The Dukes shot 45 percent from the field and from 3-point land in the game.

Towson had trouble controlling junior forward Andrey Semenov and senior guard Humpty Hitchens.

The two combined for all 10 of the Dukes’ made 3-pointers, nettingfive each. Hitchens finished with a game-high 18 points, while Semenov earned 17 points with five rebounds and two steals.

“Our big key coming into this game was to guard threes and we didn’t do that. They made six in the first half and I thought we had a lack of concentration defensively,” Skerry said. “They made four in the second half. They made some tough ones. I think maybe if we were a little more alert early, maybe they would take those away. Hitchens and Semenov are terrific shooters and we paid the price.”

The Tigers will return to road action when they play at Northeastern Tuesday night.

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