Benimon’s big day pushes Tigers past UNC Wilmington
In a game where the three-point shots weren’t falling, Towson turned to its star player to pick up the workload in the conference opener against UNC Wilmington on Saturday.
After scoring just four points in the first half, forward Jerrelle Benimon exploded for 16 points in the second half as the Tigers held off the Seahawks for a 60-53 win in front of the SECU Arena faithful. The senior finished the game with his seventh straight double-double of the year with 20 points and 16 rebounds.
“Benimon was just a tough low force. No matter what, if you’re man or zone [defense], he can just get to the glass and get to the hole and score,” UNC Wilmington Head Coach Buzz Peterson said.
Towson (10-6, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) made just 7-of-23 three pointers against UNC Wilmington’s zone defense, but where the outside shooting lacked throughout the game, Benimon picked up the offense down low in the second half.
“Shots at the basket are the easiest shots in the game, so you get layups and as you get layups people get more confidence and outside shots start falling,” Benimon said.
The Tigers also had to overcome an injury to combo guard Mike Burwell. The senior sprained his right thumb early in the game but still managed to play 23 minutes. Head Coach Pat Skerry said that Burwell won’t miss any time because of the injury.
With Burwell out, sophomore guard Four McGlynn took over at the point. McGlynn, who has played shooting guard for much of his career, has been transitioning to the point since former guard Jerome Hairston was suspended and ultimately released from the team.
McGlynn finished the game with 11 points and three assists, and the team as a whole finished the game with a season-low six turnovers.
“There’s not really a whole lot of transition. The offense is pretty simple and it’s easy to know where everybody is going to be at certain times and especially in certain plays,” McGlynn said. “That makes it a lot easier to transition, especially from being a shooting guard to the point guard position.”
After being down early to the Seahawks (6-12, 0-3 CAA), the Tigers took a 10-9 lead at the 11:58 mark of the first half. From there, the Tigers would have the lead for most of the game, except for four ties. UNC Wilmington was never able to regain the advantage, though.
“It was a typical, hard fought CAA game and we were expecting it,” Skerry said. “I think [UNC] Wilmington might be the biggest, most athletic team in the league.”
Guard Chris Dixon and forward Cedrick Williams led the Seahawks with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Guard Addison Spruill added 11 points, but the rest of the team struggled to get involved, as the bench failed to score a single point. UNC Wilmington also only made 2-of-14 three pointers in the game.
Williams also had four fouls for much of the second half, limiting his minutes to a certain extent.
“It’s been the same old thing for us all year. We just don’t have anybody that’s going to say, ‘Okay, you run your offense, it breaks down and somebody hits a three.’ We just don’t have that.”
With a small lead in the first half, Skerry brought in redshirt freshman guard Marquis Marshall. The son of former NBA player Donyell Marshall hit a clutch three, while also grabbing a rebound and an assist in just four minutes of action.
“[Marshall] gave us a good boost in the first half,” Skerry said. “He’s starting to emerge and I think if he can give us a good four or five minutes in the first half, that’s going to help us moving forward.”
Towson will play its next two games on the road before returning home Jan. 22 to face Northeastern.
The Tigers will travel Philadelphia for a matchup against the Drexel Dragons on Jan. 14 before traveling south to the College of Charleston on Jan. 19.
Tuesday’s matchup at Drexel will tip-off at 7 p.m.