The turkey had to taste a bit better this year for Pat Skerry as his Towson men’s’ basketball team took a 3-2 record into the Thanksgiving holiday. The Tigers just finished a 3-1 trip to the Comfort Suites Invitational in Richmond, Kentucky. The lone blemish was a 71-69 OT loss to host Eastern Kentucky, which is 5-1 on the season.
By Thanksgiving last year, Towson was 0-4 including two blowout losses to Kansas and Michigan. Granted none of the Tigers first five opponents this year is nationally ranked, as Kansas and Michigan both were, however all five games have been on the road and only two of the five teams have losing records.
What do we know about the Tigers after the four games in Kentucky, other than their 3-2 record? We know they are a very talented, deep and well balanced team. Skerry had said throughout the preseason that they could go nine or ten players deep on most nights. That has proven to be the case as eight players are currently logging at least 13 minutes a game. The only game this year that has seen more than two players play more than 30 minutes was the overtime game against Eastern Kentucky.
As deep as they are, they have a very balanced scoring attack as well. In the five games so far, Towson has had four different players lead them in scoring. Junior Jerrelle Benimon who was named CAA Co-Player of the week last week, is the only player averaging in double figures with 16.9 points per game. Another pair of juniors Mike Burwell and Marcus Damas are averaging over nine points a game. Both of those players probably would be over ten points per game, if the Tigers had not won by such a large margin—39 points–over Cincinnati Christian, a game in which Skerry pulled most of the starters with about 12 minutes to go in the game.
Skerry came away from the weekend in Kentucky very pleased with the improvement the team has shown on defense since the opening game loss to the College of Charleston. “I was very happy with our efforts on defense. We’ve made big strides in defending the ball and hitting the boards,” said Skerry. Towson is currently out rebounding opposing teams by 11 rebounds per game.
With the team, scoring over 70 points per game and holding the opposition to less than 40% shooting from the field and winning the rebound battle, where does Skerry see room for improvement? “We’re a better free-throw shooting team than we’ve shown. We’ve got to make those, it cost us against Eastern Kentucky,” Skerry concluded. Towson made only 10 of 17 in the second half and shot 63% for the game from the free-throw line.
After returning from the long trip to Kentucky, Skerry gave the team off until today. However, the Tigers appear to be ready to go back to work after the few days off, as Mike Burwell tweeted on Friday “This break was nice while it lasted, time to get back to Tiger Town and continue on this mission.”
Towson will renew two local rivalries in the next week that should reveal a lot more about the potential of this year’s team. On Monday, Towson will face Loyola (MD), the Greyhounds made the NCAA tournament last year and are off to a 4-1 start and play tonight at Rhode Island. “We’ve got our hands full with Loyola; it’s a true David versus Goliath. They are an excellent team and are very well coached,” commented Skerry. Towson last beat Loyola in the season opener of the 2007-08 season.
On Saturday Dec 1st Towson will face another local team when they play at UMBC. The Tigers have split its last two games with the Retrievers, losing last year and winning in December of 2010.