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Tigers prepare to start conference play

9 January 2014 By Jesse Jones, Sports Editor No Comments

One of the goals Head Coach Pat Skerry had for his squad heading into the 2013-14 season was to be one the best teams in Maryland. Although Towson would not be facing Loyola (MD) or Maryland during the regular season, the Tigers still faced four in-state opponents (Navy, Morgan State, UMBC and Coppin State).

With an 81-79 win over Coppin State last Saturday, the Tigers (9-6) not only won their first road game of the season, but also accomplished Skerry’s goal by going 4-0 against in-state opponents. Towson’s nine non-conference wins are also the most as a Division-I program in school history.

“I think it’s good. I think it helps us earn our respect,” Skerry said. “We want to be a dominant team in the Baltimore, Md. area and try to play as many local teams that will play us.”

Towson now turns its attention to conference play, as it will play its first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season when it plays UNC Wilmington. The preseason conference favorite Tigers will host the Seahawks on Saturday at 2 p.m.

UNC Wilmington sits at the bottom of the CAA with a 6-11 overall record and a 0-2 conference record after losing to James Madison and Northeastern earlier in the season.

Towson sits at the middle of the pack of the conference and is the only team that has yet to play a conference game.

“We’re playing for a regular season CAA championship which we’ve never done. We’re capable of it. We’ve got 16 wars ahead of us, starting with Saturday against a good, athletic North Carolina-Wilmington team that’s well coached,” Skerry said. “The conference is a grind. Guys are excited though and we have some experience. We have to capitalize on that.”

Forward Jerrelle Benimon leads the Tigers in several categories, including points (17.7), rebounds (10.7) and assists (four) per game. The senior also leads the team shooting 52.3 percent from the field. He has recorded six straight double-doubles and has a total of nine on the season.

“He’s had some great games all year long, but he’s been really locked in since we came back from the Texas trip,” Skerry said. “One of the things we’ve talked with Jerrelle about is that he has to be the best player on the floor every day, and I’m expecting him personally to rev it up another level in CAA play. He has to be a double-figure rebounder here every night and I know he’s locked in and ready to do that.”

Since the program cut former guard Jerome Hairston earlier in the week after having been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team before the team’s Nov. 26 matchup against UMBC, Skerry has turned to senior guard Mike Burwell and sophomore guard Four McGlynn to help run the point.

McGlynn is averaging 10.1 points per game, and Burwell 9.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists a game.

“It’s important to have McGlynn on the floor. That’s been a major part of this; we have to have him on the floor. He’s an effective player and he’s playing both ends [of the floor] really well,” Skerry said. “Mike’s a guy we used last year to finish games and we have complete confidence and trust in him.”

The Tigers will have to contain the Seahawks’ junior forward Cedrick Williams and junior guard Addison Spruill. Williams leads the team with 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Spruill is second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game.

“Cedrick Williams might be the most athletic guy in the league,” Skerry said. “He’s a tremendous rebounder and he can face it up and shoot it from 16 feet. … We have to really limit his catches.”

Towson’s offense should match up favorably against UNC Wilmington’s defense. The Tigers are averaging 73.7 points per game on the year, while the Seahawks give up an average of 72.8 points per game.

Playing at SECU Arena has also been beneficial for the offense, as the Tigers are undefeated at home and are outscoring opponents by nearly 20 points a game, according to PressBox Online.

“We’re certainly excited to get back home at SECU to play,” Skerry said. “We’ve had some really good crowds and environments, and I would imagine those would build and be even better now that conference play is going to start. We know we have a big challenge Saturday and guys are excited about it.”

Saturday’s matchup can be seen on Towson Sports Network.

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