Tigers overcome poor shooting night at JMU
For most teams, shooting 1-of-12 from three-point range and just 33.9 percent overall, to go along with just two assists and having three starters foul out on the road is a recipe for disaster.
But when the nation’s leader in double-doubles records his 19th of the season with 28 points and 16 rebounds, and the team goes 30-of-31 from the free throw line, certain teams will be able to escape a hostile environment with a win.
And that’s exactly what Towson did Wednesday night at James Madison, as the Tigers overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half to take down the Dukes 69-66 at the Convocation Center. With the win, Towson tied its school record for most wins in a season with 21.
“It was a war. It was a grind,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said. “We did do statistically what we normally tried to do. We guarded pretty well. We rebounded it, especially in the second half; we were plus-13. And then we got to the foul line. It wasn’t maybe aesthetically pleasing, but it’s the way we’ve won a lot of games this year.”
James Madison (11-18, 6-9 Colonial Athletic Association) got off to a fast start on Senior Night behind senior forward Andrey Semenov, who had 14 early points in the first half. He would finish the game with 22.
The Dukes built their lead to 10 with 4:13 left in the opening frame, but the Tigers (21-9, 12-3 CAA) ended the half on a 10-3 run to pull within three at 31-28 at the half.
Seniors Jerrelle Benimon and Rafriel Guthrie scored eight of Towson’s 10 points in the run. The other two came from freshman forward John Davis, who finished the game with four points and three rebounds.
Benimon and Guthrie each scored 12 points in the first half.
The second half started similarly to the first, as James Madison once again gained a 10-point lead.
Foul trouble also became a reality for both teams in the final frame.
Sophomore forward Taylor Bessick would foul out for the Dukes, while Semenov, sophomore guard Andre Nation and freshman forward Tom Vodanovich each had to deal with four fouls.
On the opposite end, three of Skerry’s starters were sidelined with foul trouble.
Seniors Marcus Damas and Mike Burwell, and sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera all fouled out in the second half. Damas finished the game with eight points and four rebounds, while Burwell struggled from the field with just two points on 1-of-9 shooting. Parker-Rivera made the most of his limited minutes in the game, as he finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
“He’s tremendous. He’s taken the next step. He’s a leader, a warrior. He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Skerry said. “He’s become a really good player. I’m glad he’s on our side. He’s become a guy that can be a double-double guy consistently every night now.”
Behind Benimon’s 16 points in the second half, the Tigers were able to claw their way back into the game.
After trailing 42-32 with 17 minutes left in the game, Towson went on a 17-6 run to regain the lead at 49-48 with just over 10 minutes remaining. From there, the Tigers and Duke would trade leads before being tied at 60 with 3:44 remaining.
A layup from Benimon gave Towson a 62-60 lead with 2:58 left, and the Tigers wouldn’t surrender the lead as four late free throws from sophomore guard Four McGlynn led Towson en route to its 21st win of the season.
“We’re excited about it. That means we have good players and a good staff,” Skerry said. “It’s been fun. I’m happy for our guys. I don’t think anyone is satisfied yet.”
With its win tonight, Towson has guaranteed itself a top-two seed in the CAA Tournament. Third-place William & Mary, who visits Towson on Saturday, is two games behind with only one game left to play.
The Tigers can still win the CAA Regular Season title if they beat the Tribe on Saturday and Delaware loses on the road at the College of Charleston.
Towson should know whether or not it could win the CAA Regular Season title moments before its 4 p.m. tip-off Saturday, as Delaware plays at 2 p.m.
“I would hope that we will have a ruckus, boisterous crowd there on Saturday,” Skerry said. “Not only is it a major game against a very good team with a chance to set a school record, a chance to win a league championship, but also we’ve got an unbelievable senior class that have done so much for this program.”
Saturday’s Senior Day, in which it will honor Benimon, Guthrie, Burwell and Damas, is also a blackout game.