Tigers Looking to Finish Strong As CAA Tourney Nears

February 14, 2014 | Robert Canady

The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) consists of nine teams from Charleston, SC to Boston, MA.     Each one of those cities has been pounded by winter storm PAX this week, throwing  travel plans into chaos, postponing games and having everyone think about warmer times ahead.

Hopefully those warmer times will begin the first weekend in March as all nine teams travel to Baltimore for the CAA conference tournament, but more on that later, we still have half of February left…sigh!!

This morning during the Towson Basketball Report on WNST.NET, I was asked by morning host Drew Forrester what Towson (16-9, 7-3 CAA) needs to do in its last six games to be ready for the tournament.  He prefaced this by saying this year’s tournament is what Towson has been building toward for two years, given they were ineligible last year, are stacked with seniors and were picked as the Preseason No. 1 team by the CAA Media, SIDS and Coaches.

Pat Skerry Has Tigers Playing Solid Defense-courtsey of Towson Athletics

I avoided the simple answer of saying, win its last 6 games and take their chances that a 13-3 league record would be good enough for the No. 1 seed. However, even that might be a stretch as the University of Delaware currently sits atop the CAA with an unblemished 11-0 record in league play, and posses the league’s most potent offensive attack.

Instead, what I said is simply Towson needs to avoid the trap it sometimes finds itself falling into.  And that’s forgetting to run the offense and settling for quick outside shots, many times hoisting up three-point attempts soon after crossing half court.  In its three league losses,  Towson has shot an unimpressive 35% from the field.  In two of those losses, (Northeastern 26% and Delaware 24% from the field) the damage was done in the first half.  In both those games the Tigers had double digit deficits at halftime.   As a matter of fact Towson has trailed by an average of 13 points at the half in the three losses.   Conversely in the seven wins, the Tigers have led by an average of 5 points at intermission.

Head Coach Pat Skerry has said since he arrived at Towson three years ago, that they need to do two primary things to win, that is play good defense and rebound.   Towson sits atop the CAA Statistical rankings  in both those areas.   For the season teams are only shooting .39% against them currently good enough for 22nd in the county, and Towson has not allowed any team to shoot better than 43% in any game since North Dakota State, a span of 13 games.   The Tigers have been just as impressive controlling the boards with a league best +6.1 rebounds per game margin.

So where the Tigers have struggled is in games where they have an off night shooting the ball.  I say off nights, due to the fact that Towson actually is second in the league in field goal shooting percentage at 44.8%.  However, in its most recent loss to UNC-Wilmington—a game that had been postponed from an earlier date due to an ice storm, this time  the game was played before the storms rolled in—Towson shot only 34.5% overall and 15% from three-point range.

Senior Benimon has 16 double/doubles this year tied for 1st in the country-Courtsey of Towson Athletics

In the losses to Delaware and Northeastern, the starting backcourt of Mike Burwell and Four McGlynn struggled to a combined 2-12 shooting effort.  However, they both bounced back the next two games going a combined 11-18 from the field.   In both those game outsides shots came as a result of first penetrating inside with the ball and then kicking it back out for a better look.

In speaking about the patient offense shown in those games,  Skerry said afterward that it was due to the seniors knowing what needed to be done.   For at least one night down in Wilmington the Tigers and the seniors forgot that recipe of success.

The CAA season has two weeks and six games left for the Tigers.  The stretch run begins on Saturday as they travel a couple hours down the road to Williamsburg and face William & Mary (15-8, 7-3 CAA) which is currently tied with Towson for second place in the CAA.   In a bit of a scheduling quirk, this will be the first game of the year between the Tigers and the Pride, yet Towson has already completed league play against, Drexel and Wilmington.  Towson will spend the majority of the next two weeks on the road, as they finish with only two home games at SECU Arena among the final six games.

Sophomore Tamajh Parker-Rivera Tigers Best Defensive Player according to Skerry-Courtsey Towson Athletics

The William & Mary game is important for a couple reasons.  Primarily, Towson would like to put the Monday night loss behind them with a solid win heading into Monday night’s home game with Delaware.  Since Towson last saw the Blue Hens they have had two starters suspended until March 1st for a violation of team rules.  A suspension that occurred two days after a Blue Hens win over Towson on January 25th.  One of those starters was Jarvis Threatt, who leads the league in steals and assists.  Delaware often plays full court pressure defense and Threatt was the key to that press.    However, the loss of Threatt and forward Marvin King Davis has not slowed the Blue Hens as they have won five straight without the duo.

In addition to getting back on the winning track, a win over the Tribe would put Towson in control of second place in the CAA.   A finish of second place in the league, would put the Tigers in the opposite bracket of the Blue Hens when the CAA teams storm into what is hoped to be balmy (well at least an unfrozen) Baltimore in three weeks.