Burwell and Benimon lift Tigers past College of Charleston
With 36 seconds left in the second half and trailing the College of Charleston 53-51, senior Mike Burwell scanned the court. He saw a screen that he wanted, went around it, and pulled up from around the free throw line.
The guard hit nothing but net and tied the game at 53 all. The shot would send the Colonial Athletic Association contest into overtime, where Towson pulled away and won 68-61.
“I practice that shot every day in practice,” Burwell said. “We run that play and expected them to go zone at some point. Coach [Skerry] held onto that play until they went to a 2-3 at the end of the game.”
Burwell would finish the game with 14 points and six rebounds.
Saturday’s game was much different than the first meeting between both teams on Jan. 19, when the Tigers (16-8, 7-2 CAA) defeated the Cougars (12-13, 4-6 CAA) on the road 72-57.
For much of the second half game, the Tigers trailed the Cougars. In fact, Charleston outrebounded Towson 43-34. Both teams are the top two rebounding teams in the CAA, but the Cougars showed why they rank No. 1 in rebounding margin in the conference.
“Charleston is a very good rebounding team. That was probably the worst rebounding effort that we’ve had,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said.
Towson also had just four assists compared to seven turnovers.
However, the Tigers started to play to their strengths in the second half: defense and getting to the free throw line.
Towson held Charleston to just 31.9 percent (22-of-69) from the field and 22.2 percent (6-of-27) from three-point range. The Tigers also got to the free throw line 44 times, however only made 30 (68.2 percent).
“We hang our head on defense and to hold [Charleston] to 32 percent from the field is outstanding,” Skerry said. “We’re one of the top 25 teams in the country or top 20 teams in the country in getting to the foul line, and we played to our strengths.”
Several factors have come together for Towson to attempt so many free throws each game.
Senior guard Rafriel Guthrie, who finished Saturday’s game with 12 points, constantly drives to the hole and, before Saturday’s matchup, was averaging 8.3 free throw attempts per game over the last six games. On Saturday, he went to the line nine times.
Another factor is sophomore guard Four McGlynn. While McGlynn might not be shooting the free throws each time, his presence around the perimeter creates opportunities for his teammates, according to Skerry.
“[McGlynn] really helps us by spacing the floor,” Skerry said. “[Other teams] stay attached to him because they don’t want him to shoot it, and that opens up a lot of driving lanes. I think that’s why we get to the foul line so much. It doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, but he helps you win games.”
In the overtime period, forward Jerrelle Benimon took over for Towson. The senior had seven of the Tigers’ 15 points in the period, all coming at the line or in the paint.
He finished with a game-high 20 points and seven rebounds as the Tigers won their fourth straight game.
“[Benimon is] a special player. He’s intelligent; he plays hard,” Skerry said. “He kind of willed us today. He wants this thing really bad. He’s been practicing like that, he’s been trying to lead, and you can see the way he performed today.”
Both Skerry and Burwell gave credit to the fans after the game. A total of 3,139 people we in attendance.
“It was great. It felt like it lifted us up a little bit. It gave us another notch,” Burwell said.
“It was tremendous to have a game on major television like today with Comcast and to have the place jumping, it was outstanding,” Skerry said. “It’s what I wanted to come here for. It’s what we try to recruit guys for, to play meaningful games on television this time of year. It was great.”
For Charleston, redshirt freshman guard Canyon Barry led the Cougars with 14 points, while senior forward Willis Hall finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Towson will now head to the road for its next two games, starting with Monday at UNC Wilmington.
The game against the Seahawks, which was postponed from earlier in the season due to inclement weather, is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.