Towson beats UNC-Wilmington in CAA opener
Towson defeated UNC-Wilmington 79-74 on the road Wednesday night to earn its first Colonial Athletic Association win of the season at the hands of the only team the Tigers defeated last season.
Junior forward Jerrelle Benimon led the Tigers (6-8, 1-0 CAA) to victory. Benimon recorded 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
“[Benimon] is playing both ends of the floor,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said. “He’s got a lot of tools in the tool box. He’s a very unselfish player.”
Three other players scored in double figures for the Tigers as well.
Graduate forward/center Bilal Dixon scored 14 points, junior guard Mike Burwell scored 13 and junior forward Marcus Damas added 11 points.
“We were really good in transition,” Skerry said. “A good offense is spacing and then obviously sharing, and we’re getting better at that. We have some good players that we knew would break out. We certainly need their productivity on offense.”
Craig Ponder, who scored a game-high 23 points, led the Seahawks (5-8, 0-1) who fought back from a 20-point deficit in the first half.
“He’s a tough matchup, he’s got a good first step,” Skerry said. “We were worried about him going in. I thought we did a pretty good job making him take tough shots but he proved he’s capable of doing that.”
With 5:55 left in the game, UNC-Wilmington went on an 18-5 run to cut a 67-50 Towson lead down to just four.
Burwell then made a pair of free throws with 24 seconds remaining and the Tigers held off their CAA-rivals.
The Seahawks’ home-court advantage was key in their comeback, according to Skerry.
“They’re at home and they’re going to make some plays. They got some momentum going,” he said. “We need to be a little more alert in transition defense.”
Despite losing such a large lead, the Tigers had some bright spots defensively. The team had nine total blocks and six steals.
Throughout the season, Towson’s Achilles heel has been turning the ball over. On the season, the Tigers are averaging 14.3 turnovers per game while forcing their opponents to turn the ball over 11.2 times a game. However, against UNC-Wilmington, the team only committed six turnovers and forced nine.
Wednesday night’s victory marks the first time since the 2008-09 season that Towson has won back-to-back road games. The Tigers defeated Oregon State 67-66 in an overtime thriller Dec. 30 in Corvallis, Or.
Towson will return to action Saturday at Drexel before returning home to face William & Mary on Jan 9.
Tip off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 4 p.m.