Towson defeats Northeastern for the first time since 2009
To the naked eye, Thursday night’s game at Northeastern, Towson looked like the clear favorite. The preseason Colonial Athletic Association favorite was 18-9 overall and 9-3 in conference play. The Huskies were just 9-18 and 6-7 in the CAA.
However, the Tigers had never beaten the Huskies in the Pat Skerry era. In fact, the last time that Towson had beaten Northeastern was in the 2009 CAA Championship. The last regular season win against the Huskies came on Jan. 2, 2008.
And despite trailing on the road in the second half, Towson grinded its way to a 79-70 road win for its 19th win of the season – the most wins since the 1993-94 season.
“They’ve been a consistently good program,” Skerry said of Northeastern. “They’re tough to play against. We only got to play them once last year, and that was early.”
For just the third time this season, senior forward Jerrelle Benimon was held to single-figure scoring. The nation-leader in double-doubles (18) scored just eight points, but dished out six assists and grabbed six rebounds. He also had three steals.
“Our guys got him the ball and he did a great job of finding guys,” Skerry said. “Everybody knows his vision and his ability to pass the ball, and his unselfishness is really second-to-none.”
Towson (19-9, 10-3 CAA) also benefited from a balanced effort, as four players scored in double-figures. Senior guards Rafriel Guthrie and Mike Burwell scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, and combined for 10 of Towson’s 14 field goals in the second half.
“Those two guys are absolutely soldiers out there. They made every big play,” Skerry said. “Guthrie, I thought, was sensational for 40 minutes and Burwell really stepped it up.”
Sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera added 13 points and five rebounds, and senior forward Marcus Damas contributed 13 points.
The Tigers shot 54.2 percent from the field (26-of-48) and made 20-of-22 free throws (90.9 percent), including 15-of-17 in the second half. Towson made all 11 of its free throw attempts in the final 2:35 of the game.
“We’ve been getting up on our free throws. Our staff does a good job of making sure the guys get extra free throws … you’ve got to be able to make those,” Skerry said.
Northeastern (9-19, 6-8 CAA) was also the beneficiary of four players scoring in double-figures. Freshman guard T.J. Williams led the team with 17 points and junior forward Scott Eatherton added 15 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard David Walker scored 11 points, and junior forward Reggie Spencer contributed 10.
“Their frontcourt is very good. They’re big and physical and they get the ball inside to them a lot,” Skerry said. “I thought T.J. was a man today on both ends of the floor.”
While the Huskies shot 48.1 percent from the field (26-of-54), they made just 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) of their three-point attempts. Towson’s defense also held Northeastern in check late in the game, as the Huskies made just 3 of their last 14 field goals to end the game.
“For us, it’s a big win because statistically, it’s not usually how we win. We didn’t guard great; we didn’t rebound great,” Skerry said. “But this time of year you like to see the heart of our kids. They just found a way to get it done.”
Towson will now face a quick turnaround, as the Tigers will go straight from Boston to Hofstra to face the Pride on Saturday.
“We’re expecting to see multiple defenses from them, that’s what they do,” Skerry said. “Coach [Joe] Mihalich has taken a lot of different teams to the postseason. He’s doing a heck of a job at Hofstra. We’re going to have to play our best and be ready for them.”
Tip-off from Hempstead, N.Y. is scheduled for 4 p.m.