Playing in front of a decidly hometown crowd, Towson’s basketball team defeated James Madison University 80-71 on Saturday night at Baltimore Arena. It was exactly the type of advantage that Towson had hoped to have with the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Tournament being held in Baltimore for the first time in its history.
That atmosphere was noticed by the players, “I fed off the atmopshere, obviously we had a great crowd and that helped,” said Four McGlynn the sophomore guard who led all scorers with 21 points. Head Coach Pat Skerry felt McGlynn was a key coming into the game. ”He was a guy we were going to count on. He has NCAA postseason and conference championship experiencce. His postseason experience really showed through tonight,” Skerry said.
That postseasonn experience also showed itself from the free throw line where McGlynn was 6-6 during the last 1:07 of a game that featured 97 free throw attempts by both teams. Towson set a CAA Tournament single game record in both free throws attempted (61) and made (39). McGlynn helped the Tigers get ahead by double digits early when he made two three-pointers in the first ten minutes of the game, he wouuld end the night making four of five long range attempts.
Leading by as many as 13 in the first half, JMU used a 7-1 run over the last 3:59 of the half, Towson’s last field goal came on a Marcus Damas steal and dunk at the 4:40 mark.
The teams traded three pointers to begin the second half. From there the rest of the second half became a march to the free throw line for both teams. Towson took 42 trips to the charity stripe and converted 27 of them. The Dukes made the most of their turn by making 22 of 28 free throws in the final stanza.
Jerrelle Benimon who took home the CAA Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year Thursday night, recorded career highs with 21 free throws attempted and 12 made. When asked if all the fouls called made it hard to get in a good offensive flow, Benimon replied, “Well I couldn’t get a rhythm going from the free throw line either, so I guess it didn’t make a difference.”
With all the trips to the free throw line, the Tigers were able stem any serious run by the Dukes. The closest JMU would get in the second half was six points on a couple occasions, the last coming with just :59 to play. However, Towson made it’s last eight free throws to close it out. In fact the last 17 points for the Tigers came via free throws.
When the Tigers were able to get a shot off without being fouled, they did remarkably well shooting 58% from the field and 62% on threes in the second half. For the game, Towson hit on 57% (9-17) of it’s thres.
As for the pressure of playing their first postseason game since arriving at Towson, and having it in your backyard with high expectations, Skerry said “The kids handled it incredibly well, probably a lot better than I did. We had an unbelievable turnout of Towson people here tonight and I would believe it would be even larger tomorrow.”
Tomorrow means today, as Towson will play in the CAA semifinals for the first time since 2009, when it faces William and Mary for the third time in just about three weeks. ”This was a big game, we hadn’t played in this (the tournament) we had to get the first win. I would anticipate we’ll play much better on both ends of the floor tomorrow,” Skerry said.