Tigers torch Drexel Dragons
After earning its first Colonial Athletic Association win in Saturday’s conference opener against UNC Wilmington, Towson took to the road in search of its second CAA win.
Despite playing a Drexel team without four key players, including All-CAA first team junior guard Damion Lee, finding a win on the road was no guarantee for the Tigers, who were just 1-6 away from SECU Arena coming into Tuesday night’s contest.
However, strong performances from two of Head Coach Pat Skerry’s most important seniors proved to be enough to propel Towson to an 80-68 win in Philadelphia.
This is the second straight year that Towson has started off 2-0 in conference play.
“It’s big because in my opinion Drexel is a postseason team,” Skerry said. “They’re tough. They’re talented and incredibly well-coached. It’s a tough win to play so it’s a big win for us.”
Senior forward Jerrelle Benimon led the Tigers (11-6, 2-0 CAA) with his eighth consecutive double-double on the year and 11th on the season, good for a second-place tie in the NCAA. The preseason CAA Player of the Year finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Right behind him was classmate Marcus Damas. The forward tied his career-high with 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three-point land.
“They were both absolutely outstand, and so was [Rafriel] Guthrie,” Skerry said. “… Jerrelle was a monster and Marcus just made big shot after big shot. When the seniors play like that, you have a chance to reach your goals.”
As a unit, the Tiger offense torched the Dragons (9-7, 1-2 CAA). Towson shot 55 percent from the field (26-of-47) and 50 percent from beyond the arc (8-of-16). Senior guar Rafriel Guthrie added nine points off the bench and sophomore forward Timajh Parker-River added eight points, all which came in the first half.
Three-point shooting was a challenge for Towson against UNC Wilmington, who played a zone defense. However, despite facing the zone again Tuesday night, Skerry’s team was better equipped this time around.
“I thought we did a really good job. Our three’s either came off of either penetrate-and-kick, or we hit the elbow and we got drops in the corner. We played kind of inside out.”
Despite the offensive outbreak, not everything went smoothly for Towson.
The Tigers were outrebounded by the Dragons, 43-36, a rarity for Skerry’s team.
Guard Chris Fouch, who leads the Dragons with roughly 18 points a game, recorded a game-high 28 points, and fellow guard Frantz Massanet, second on the team in scoring, scored 21 points. However, the rest of the team combined for just 19 points.
“First off, Massanet and Fouch are outstanding. I thought we made them work for everything they got, they’re just both so talented,” Skerry said. “… I don’t think we did a very good job holding block-outs on long shots. I thought they chased down longer rebounds than us.”
Midway through the second quarter, Drexel cut the Towson lead to nine at 59-50 after a traditional three-point play by Fouch. However, as he did all night, Benimon responded with a jumper to give Towson a double-digit lead again.
A few minutes later, Drexel cut Towson’s lead to nine again, but an offensive rebound by freshman Walter Foster drew a foul and the forward hit both free throws to give the Tigers an 11-point advantage once again with just over eight minutes remaining.
From there, Towson would hold off the Dragons for its second conference win, propelling it to the top of the CAA standings in a tie with Delaware. The Tigers currently hold the tiebreaker with a one-game advantage in overall record.
Towson will remain on the road for its next game, traveling to Charleston, S,C. to play CAA-newcomer College of Charleston.
The Cougars are 10-8 overall and 2-1 in conference this season, and are led by senior forward Willis Hall and junior guard Anthony Stitt.
Towson is familiar with Charleston, as the teams played last season. The visiting Tigers fell 75-58 in the season opening matchup.
“I think once again they’re a postseason team and they’ll be right there in it to win the CAA,” Skerry said. “They’re very well coached. They guard; they’re physical; they rebound and they have a lot of guys that can score the ball. We’ll have to play as well as we’ve played all year to win down there.”
Sunday’s 3 p.m. matinee can be seen on NBC Sports Network.