Tigers fend off Patriots in overtime
For the first time since 1977, Towson won at George Mason, bringing the Tigers one win shy of the greatest season turnaround in NCAA Divison-I history.
The Tigers (17-13, 12-5 Colonial Athletic Association) held off the Patriots (17-12, 10-7 CAA) 85-81 in overtime in Fairfax, Va., marking the team’s first win against the Patriots in 20 tries.
“We have an awesome University here and we’re trying to build something that everyone can be proud of,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said. “Football has had some success the past few years and we’re trying to get this thing going. We have a special place here at Towson and we’ve been lying in the woods too long.”
Junior forward Jerrelle Benimon, who is a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the Mid-Major Player of the Year, led the Tigers. Benimon scored a career-high 31 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added two blocks.
Junior guard/forward Marcus Damas finished with a season-high 23 points and nine rebounds.
Damas, who led the team in scoring (12.5 points per game) and rebounding (5.3 rebounds per game) last season, has played a large roll in Towson’s success this season.
“In all my 20 years of coaching I’ve never been more proud of a kid on the floor,” Skerry said of Damas. “How much better he’s gotten, how hard he works. To me, he’s an all conference player.”
The Tigers led the Patriots by eight with 1:38 remaining, but a series of three pointers from guard Patrick Holloway dwindled the lead to as little as one with 24 seconds remaining in regulation.
After a pair of free throws from Damas that increased Towson’s lead to three, forward Anali Okoloji hit the game-tying three-pointer with one second remaining that sent the game to overtime.
Graduate center Bilal Dixon scored the go-ahead layup with 37 seconds remaining in overtime off a missed three-pointer from Benimon.
Then, with seven seconds remaining, Benimon blocked forward Erik Copes’ jumper to hold off George Mason in overtime to seal the win.
Skerry said his team was not fazed, despite losing the lead in a hostile environment.
Four players scored in double figures for the Patriots, including Copes who recorded a “double-double” with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Forward Jonathan Arledge led George Mason with 17 points, guard Bryon Allen scored 14 points and guard Corey Edwards added 10.
“They’re well coached,” Skerry said of Mason. “[Head Coach] Paul Hewitt has been to multiple NCAA tournaments, they’re very athletic and talented. They’re certainly a team that can win the conference tournament.”
The Tigers will host the team’s final game in the Towson Center, Saturday against the Hofstra Pride.
Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.