Benimon carries Tigers to victory over W&M
With 7:42 remaining in the first half and down by one, senior forward Marcus Damas drove the baseline and threw down a two-handed slam in traffic to put Towson up 63-62 on the road at William & Mary on Saturday.
What followed from there was one of the best stretches of basketball the Tigers have played all season, as an 18-3 run propelled Towson to sole possession of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The run, which including strong play from senior forward Jerrelle Benimon and sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera, as well as multiple threes from sophomore guard Four McGlynn, lifted Towson to an 85-70 win in a matchup that featured two teams tied at 7-3 in the conference before the game.
“We were unselfish on some drives and we found McGlynn a couple times. He did a great job of knocking down shots,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said. “We went zone, which we practice every day but don’t normally use. It helped us today for sure.”
It was an all-around effort for Towson (17-9, 8-3 CAA) on Saturday. Benimon recorded his nation-leading 17th double-double of the season with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. During the game, Benimon earned his 1,000th career point, a feat which senior forward Marcus Damas accomplished earlier this season. It took Benimon just 57 games to reach that milestone.
“Great accomplishment. I’m not really sure how fast people usually reach, but I guess 57 is good,” Benimon joked when asked about the milestone.
Senior guard Mike Burwell added a career-high 23 points, while Parker-Rivera scored 12 points and McGlynn finished with 11.
The Tigers shot 53.6 percent (30-of-56) from the field, while connecting on 43.8 percent (7-of-16) three pointers and hitting 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) of their free throw attempts.
“It was a very good win for us on the road against a very potent offensive team,” Skerry said. “I think it speaks a lot about our kids to bounce back and lock in, especially some of the older guys. They really responded.”
William & Mary (15-9, 7-4 CAA) benefited from a balanced effort as well. Senior guard Brandon Britt scored a team-high 16 points, freshman guard Omar Prewitt added 15. Senior forwards Tim Rusthoven and Kyle Gaillard each scored 11 points.
“They’re both terrific shooters,” Skerry said of Britt and Prewitt. “Britt is tough, tough kid; one of the toughest guys in the league. Prewitt has some really good size and can really shoot the ball.”
But one of the worst performances, statistically, of the year from its best player ultimately doomed the Tribe.
Coming into Saturday’s game, junior guard Marcus Thornton was leading the CAA with 20 points per game and had hit over 70 three-pointers on the season. However, strong all-around defense from the Tigers held Thornton to just six points on 1-of-14 shooting. His lone field goal was a three, where he was just 1-of-8 on the day.
“You can never really shut that kid down, you just try to make him take tough shots,” Skerry said. “With Burwell and Guthrie guarding him most of the time, they did a really good job.”
Towson will now turn its attention to first-place Delaware, who will travel to SECU Arena on Monday. The Blue Hens, who are a perfect 11-0 in conference play, defeated the Tigers 83-76 in Delaware on Jan. 25.
In that game, Benimon scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while the Blue Hens’ Devon Saddler scored 23 off of the bench. A total of 59 fouls were called in the game.
“I’m hoping we’re going to have a lot of students out there Monday night. Delaware is undefeated and has tremendous talent,” Skerry said. “We’re going to need a monumental effort, and our guys are going to be excited. It’s a rivalry game … and it’s on national TV.”
Tip-off from SECU Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Network.