Tag Archive | "SECU"

Benimon

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What A Difference Two Years And An Arena Can Make

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Robert Canady

Two years ago during the 2011-12 season, I covered many of Towson’s basketball games, meaning I witnessed  a loss almost every night.   I had a courtside view along with one other faithful reporter Mat Schlissel of TowsonTigers.com.  Many nights it was just the two of us who watched  from press row at a cold and lifeless Towson Center, as a team with only four scholarship players finished 1-31.  Also some nights we weren’t outnumbered by too many fans in the stands either.  A fact that isn’t lost on Head Coach Pat Skerry,  saying, “Two years ago we weren’t giving away seats, we were giving away sections.”

The Tigers are a commanding 13-1 in their new home SECU Arena

Fast forward two years, to this past Monday night.  Mat and I  still had seats next to each other.  However, this time those seats were in the beautiful new SECU Arena.  And, we had been bumped from our courtside seats in favor of the national television crew from NBCSports Network.   Also this time we were only two of 29 media members covering the game.

Still more differences, this time a crowd of over 4000 packed the new home of the Tigers with an energy that I have not witnessed in three seasons covering the team.  Most importantly among those 4,000 fans were the Towson students.   In those games at the Towson Center many nights, there was hardly what you could call a student section.   For most of this year, the students have been out in force, filling both sections under each basket, along with the energy generating Towson pep band.   Season ticket holders, alumni and just plain fans often take their cue from the student section.  If the students are into it, they naturally join along.

The excitement was in large part due to the opponent.  The University of Delaware came in with an unblemished 11-0 record in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play.  The Blue Hens occupied the first place spot that Towson had been picked for in the preseason poll.  In the first matchup of the season in Newark last month, Delaware had a similar type crowd on hand and beat the Tigers 83-76 taking control of the 1st place in the league.

To see where the Towson program has come In less than two years is remarkable.  It began with the arrival of  Skerry in the spring of 2011.  He found himself with a shorthanded team during his first season, yet it didn’t affect his approach to each game.   The Tigers played hard, they just didn’t have the talent.  Well they had talent, but it was sitting on the bench in the form of transfers Jerrelle Benimon and Mike Burwell.

When Benimon and Burwell along with JUCO transfer Rafriel Guthrie became eligible to play last year, the Tigers turned in the well documented record breaking season in which they set an NCAA record for biggest turnaround by finishing 18-13.  However, the joy of that success was tempered a bit as the Tigers knew going into the season they would not be eligible for any post-season play, due to APR issues prior to Skerry’s arrival.

This year came with many expectations, Benimon was voted the pre-season Player of the Year in the conference, and as mentioned the Tigers were voted the pre-season favorite to win the league.  They had gone from being the hunter to the hunted, and as Skerry has referenced a few times this year, they wouldn’t be able to sneak up on anyone this season.

So after 11 conference games the scene was set for Monday night, a win by Delaware would have clinched the CAA title for them and assured them not only of the No. 1 seed when the tournament starts in Baltimore in just over two weeks, but also assured them of a NIT bid should they fail to win the conference tournament.

With the win the Tigers still have an outside shot at winning the regular season title, should Delaware lose at  least two of its remaining four games.   While the regular season title may still be a long shot for Towson, the win did a couple of things that should bring even more excitement to the tournament.

Most importantly it can be argued, the Tigers regained some of their swagger in the league.  Two losses to the Blue Hens might have taken some of the anticipation out of the tournament.  The Tigers didn’t just win, they dominated Delaware in all phases of the game, and showed the form that garnered them the pre-season ranking.

Should the Tigers and Blue Hens meet in the tournament, it will most likely come in the final, as it stands now they will go in as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.    So there would be the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.  With the game being played in Baltimore at First Mariner Arena, Towson should be able to have the largest fan support of the nine teams.   However, the Delaware fan base travels very well, and will no doubt have several bus loads of students and fans make the just over one hour drive from Newark.

Player Of The Year Candidate Benimon outplayed UD Candidate Saddler on Monday night.-Photo Credit Towson Athletics

Both teams have valid player of the year candidates, Towson with Benimon and  Delaware with its all time leading scorer Devon Saddler.  The two schools are a natural rival.   In addition to being the closest in proximity of any CAA schools, the two have very successful football programs and have had some classic matchups on the football field.

Both teams have some work to do the final ten days of the regular season to avoid any slip-ups and both coaches will tell you the next game is the only one they are worried about.   The next game for Towson is Thursday night in Boston as they face Northeastern.   Skerry showed he is not looking past this game, “I told the team (in the locker room after the Delaware game) I like to leave them with little pleasantries.  But nobody in this room has beaten Northeastern, so we’ve got a major game there Thursday.”

Towson stays on the road after the Northeastern game to play at Hofstra on Saturday.  They return home only long enough to do laundry attend a class or two and head to James Madison for the penultimate game on Wednesday the 25th.

The regular season will close out against William and Mary on Saturday March 1st at SECU, and I know this, Mat and I will be sitting side by side, again in the upper concourse to make room for another TV crew, a fact that neither of us mind as we think back to those cold nights in an empty Towson Center, and realize how far this program and team has come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s your chance to watch basketball with me at the new SECU Arena

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Here’s your chance to watch basketball with me at the new SECU Arena

Posted on 16 January 2014 by Drew Forrester

I have to admit this: when the Ravens do something like initiate a search for an offensive coordinator, it benefits me and the rest of the professionals at WNST.

First, it gives us talk-radio fodder, which comes in particularly handy this time around because the Ravens are not playing football in this playoff campaign.

Next, it provides me and the others here a chance to gauge the temperature and sports-intelligence-level of our customer, either the listener or reader in WNST’s case.

It also allows for us to absorb what other members of the media in town are saying about the topic at hand.  What sort of “take” do they offer?  Is it knee-jerk and silly or well thought out and reasoned?

This offensive coordinator search has revealed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to all of those elements I listed above.

Unfortunately, the word “embarrassment” is more appropriate than I might have first realized.

It doesn’t matter to me what your position is with regard to the Ravens current search for a new offensive mind.  You are all welcome to your own opinion with regard to what candidate makes the most sense and which one should be disregarded.

Here, though, is the one incredibly DUMB thing I’m hearing and reading — from a lot of you — about any of the candidates.  And here’s where I’ll add that I heard at least two other local sports radio personalities author this exact same thought, so they’re just as dumb. Actually, they’re worse — more dumber (they used the word “dumber” in a movie title, I assume it’s a word) if you will — because they’re supposedly professional.

“Well, they better not hire Jim Hostler…have you seen his track record as an offensive coordinator?  He sucks.”

“Kyle Shanahan?  That guy just got fired in DC.  He couldn’t get along with RGIII, how’s he gonna work with Flacco?”

“Just say no to Childress.  He’s friends with Harbaugh.”

Dumb.  Dumber.  And more dumb.

Jim Hostler was the Offensive Coordinator in 2007 in San Francisco.  It was a brief, one-year tenure.  It didn’t go well.  The team out there, by the way, was going through a stretch of finishing .500 or worse over eight straight seasons.

Seven seasons ago Jim Hostler was the Offensive Coordinator of the 49′ers and he failed.  So, should that immediately disqualify him for this Ravens’ opening?  Really, should it?  You mean, in his six years in Baltimore, he hasn’t learned?  Hasn’t improved?  Hasn’t, perhaps, figured out a better way?  I’m not campaigning for Hostler in any way, shape or form.  I’m on record saying I think there are more qualified candidates than him.  That said, the one thing I won’t say is — “well, he can’t do the job, did you see what he did in San Francisco?”

If you sell tape recorders for The Smith Company in 2010 and fail miserably, does that mean you’re incapable of selling tape recorders for The Jones Company in 2016 when there’s an opening there?  What if during that six year span you had a better sales manager who taught you a lot while you were working for The Brown Company?  You failed in 2010.  Does that just mean you’re going to fail again in 2016?  Of course not.

That’s what you all have done in Baltimore with regard to Jim Hostler.

“He sucked in 2007 so he’s gonna suck for us, now.”

Not necessarily.

Maybe he’ll have better players at his disposal in Baltimore in 2014.  That would help.

I was the golf coach at John Carroll in Bel Air in 2011 and 2012.  We played sixteen MIAA matches in that span.  The team went 0-16.  We were shut out in 7 of the 16 matches.  Last year, I was hired by Calvert Hall and we won the MIAA golf championship for the first time since 1997.  Thank God the people at Calvert Hall didn’t say, “Have you seen what Drew did over at John Carroll?  They didn’t win a match.  We can’t hire that loser.”

If you want to point to Jim Hostler’s work in Baltimore over the last six seasons and question what role he’s played in the development of the team’s receivers, I think that’s VERY fair.  So would he, I assume.  But to harp on and on and on and on about one season in San Francisco back in 2007 is just dumb.  Sorry if that hurts.  But it’s dumb.

By the way, Bill Belichick was 36-44 in Cleveland in the 1990′s.  Look at HIS record in New England.

Tony Dungy fired and fell back in Tampa Bay in the early part of last decade.  Some good, some bad.  He turned out to be a champion and, most likely, a Hall of Famer.

People in sports get fired all the time.  It doesn’t make them a guaranteed failure down the road.

I’m glad we’re smart enough to pass that along to you.

I hope you listen.

—————————————————————-

The times, they are a changin’ over at Towson University.

And if you have a Twitter account and you follow @WNST, you just might see that for yourself next Wednesday night.

We all know the football team has experienced a glorious turn around over the last five seasons under Rob Ambrose, but are you aware that the men’s basketball program has also been rebuilt from a 1-win team in 2011-2012 to a legitimate CAA title contender in this, his 3rd season at the school?

It’s true.

Towson basketball has experienced a great rebirth and this year, they’re spending their first ever campaign in the brand new SECU Arena, located a stone’s throw from their outstanding football stadium.

Here’s where WNST comes in.

I’m taking eight of you – plus a guest you bring – to next Wednesday night’s home game against Northeastern at SECU Arena.  You’ll attend the game for free, sit in the SECU luxury box with me and the other WNST winners, and have food and drink supplied for free by the fine folks from SECU.  We even some courtside seats you can all share throughout the game.

What’s the catch, Drew?  Is that what you’re asking?

There isn’t one.

I’m just a nice guy.  And so are the people at SECU — and they’re proud of the arena with their name on it and they want you to see it next Wednesday night.

How do you win the tickets?

Easy — today, from 6am to 5pm, tweet the words “See You At SECU” to us (@WNST).  That’s it.  By doing that, you’re entered.  We’ll then pick four of you at random today and announce the winners via Twitter around 5:30 pm.

And if you don’t win today, we’re doing the same thing again tomorrow, Friday, January 17.

Go to Twitter today from 6am to 5pm and tweet the words “See You At SECU” to us @WNST and you might, actually, see ME at SECU Arena next Wednesday night!

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Guthrie V Temple

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Tigers Ready to Roar Into CAA Play

Posted on 10 January 2014 by Robert Canady

A year after exceeding expectations, Towson University men’s basketball team will now have to live up to expectations.

The Tigers were voted No. 1 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)  preseason-poll by members of the media and sports information directors.  After 15 non conference games (9-6) the Tigers will finally get a chance to prove that ranking was justified as the CAA conference portion of the season begins Saturday when Towson hosts North Carolina-Wilmington  (UNCW 6-11) at SECU arena.

“We were picked first, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. We want to finish first,” said Head Coach Pat Skerry when asked to assess the Tigers chances as they head into conference play.  ‘If we do what we’re capable of, we’ll be right where we want to be, added Skerry.

Benimon once again is among the national leaders in double/doubles with nine.

Towson’s nine non-conference wins are the most by  Towson as a Division I team, and the most the Tigers have won on any level since they won 13 as a Division II school in the 1977-78 season.   The 9 wins have come against afairly strong nonconference road slate.  Towson played at Villanova, Kansas, Oregon State, North Dakota State and Stephen F. Austin, which currently has a 26 game home winning streak.  The six road losses came to teams that were a combined 30-2 at home at one point.

Skerry acknowledged the tough road tests and how his players felt about the record at this point,  “I scheduled a challenging schedule, and we have guys who want to win at a high level and can win at a high level, so I think they wanted to be a little better than 9-6.  So that shows they have embraced the expectations.”

While Towson had its road struggles (1-6), the new SECU arena quickly became a home court advantage.  The Tigers opened up with three early wins at the new facility, including a thrilling win over Temple before a near sell-out crowd.  Towson finished the non CAA portion of the season with an 8-0 record at home.  Dating back to last year, the Tigers have won 12 straight home games, which is the 18th best streak in the nation.

Leading the Tigers as expected in its nine wins has been Senior Jerrelle Benimon.  Voted the Pre-Season Player of the Year in the CAA  Benimon has picked up where he left off last year.  He’s averaging a double/double with 17.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.  And, actually he’s on a bit of a tear the past five games putting up 20.2 points and 13. 6 rebounds during that stretch.  Benimon has scored in double figures every game except for the season opener against Navy, and is tied for 3rd in the country with nine double-doubles and is one of only five players in the nation as of January 6th with a triple double this year.  He accomplished the feat against Central Penn College in December with 17 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

While Benimon gets the most attention from opposing teams, and the NBA scouts that have been attendance at several games this year, the Tigers have actually had a very balanced scoring attack.  Three starters are averaging double figures, with a fourth Mike Burwell practically there with 9.2 points per game.  In addition Rafriel Guthrie is contributing 10.9 points a game coming off the bench.

 

Mike Burwell has had career high in points, rebounds and assists this year.

Scoring has not been a problem for Towson this year.  Unlike last year where they pretty much counted on Benimon to lead the way in scoring most nights. with then Junior Marcus Damas contributing 11 points a game, this year’s squad is getting help from many directions.   Currently the Tigers are second among CAA teams in FG% at .458 and second in points per game at 73.7.

Early last year the Tigers struggled to find a deep and balanced scoring attack. This year they have been aided greatly by the eligibility of Vermont transfer Four McGlynn.  McGlynn, a sophomore is  averaging 13.3 points over the last nine games.  He moved into the starting lineup in the 6th game of the year following the suspension and subsequent dismissal of point guard Jerome Hairston.   McGlynn is hitting over .43% of his three-point attempt, and has connected on at least two per game in eight of the Tigers last nine contests.  One of McGlynn’s biggest assets is taking care of the ball, he has just two turnovers in the last five games.

While McGlynn has given the Tigers the outside threat they need to keep teams from concentrating solely on Bennimon, the play of Senior Mike Burwell, has been vital in the Tigers maintaining a strong team chemistry during the transition of playing without Hairston.  Burwell played almost exclusively at the two-guard spot last year.   With McGlynn moving into the lineup at the two, point-guard duties were shifted to Burwell.

McGlynn has delivered as promised from three-point range.

After some early adjustment, Burwell has flourished in the role.  “It has taken time to learn where everyone likes to get the ball.  But I am getting more comfortable.  I love having the ball in my hands,” Burwell said about the shift of positions.  It has shown in both his and the teams numbers.  Burwell has 15 assists with just four turnovers in the teams last 3 games.  Burwell distributed a career high nine assists in the win over New Hampshire last week.

Taking on the role of point guard hasn’t hurt Burwell’s offensive and defensive roles, quite the opposite.  Over the past four games he is averaging 13.7 points while shooting .500 from the field and collected a career high nine rebounds against Coppin State.  Burwell is simply playing the best basketball of his Towson career just as the Tigers head into the conference season.

One of the most important things that Burwell has to do, is not turning the ball over and make sure the Tigers get opportunities to score.  Turnovers have been a constant thorn in the teams losses.  The Tigers are averaging 15.6 turnovers in its losses versus only 12.8 in its wins.  Burwell is leading the team in assist to turnover ratio, averaging 1.18 assist to every turnover.

As the veteran on this team, in his third  year as a Tiger, Damas has improved each season in his all around play.  This year he is the teams second biggest three-point threat behind McGlynn,  hitting on .400 of his attempts from beyond the arc, compared to just .300 last year.   In addition Damas often draws the assignment of guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team.  This year he has done that while decreasing his fouls per game by almost half a foul per game.

Just as he did last year, senior guard Guthrie provides an instant spark coming off the bench.  Guthrie provides constant defensive pressure on the opponents, and he along with Benimon have benefited the most from the increased enforcement of hand checking by the defense. In just 23 minutes per game, Guthrie is averaging over five trips to the charity-stripe.  One area he could really help the team is by improving on his .600 shooting from there.

Guthrie provides instant offense off the bench.

Timajh Parker-Rivera has stepped into the starting lineup replacing graduated Bilal Dixon and done very nicely.  His size and strength inside will be more of a factor in the CAA conference than it was against some of the bigger lineups the Tigers saw out of conference.  Getting over 22 minutes per game while sharing duties with freshman Walter Davis, Parker-Rivera puts up 4.8 points (but has scored 10 or more in three of the last five games) while grabbing almost five rebounds per game.  He is a very high percentage shooter inside, hitting on 48% of his FG attempts.

Foster along with fellow freshman John Davis have provided the Tigers with what looks to be two very impressive front court players in the years to come.  Foster makes the most of his time, in just his 14 minutes per game, he is averaging 4.3 rebounds and his 15 blocked shots is only one behind Parker-Rivera for second on the team.

Davis played some strong minutes early in the season, highlighted by nine point eight rebound performance in just 18 minutes of action in his home town of Philadelphia in the Tigers loss to Villanova.  Davis came down with Mononucleosis after the North Dakota State game, and will be sidelined until at least February 1st.   Getting him back for the last month of the season would be very important to the Tigers, who are already down one anticipated starter with the departure of Hairston.

While the 9-6 record may not be getting the national headlines that the Tigers received last year when they had the largest single season turnaround in NCAA history, it should not be forgotten that it is much better than the 5-8 record the Tigers had last year prior to CAA play.   This is the blessings and curse of high expectations, but as Skerry said the team has embraced them, and has even higher expectations of themselves, which include a conference championship and a run at the NCAA tournament in March.

Saturday will be the first of 16 contests, that lead up to the CAA Tournament to be held in Baltimore in March.  After having to sit out last year’s tournament with APR problems from 3 years ago, the Tigers will be very anxious to see how they match up against those expectations.

 

 

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Damas

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Tigers Getting Strong Support From Towson Students With Early Season Wins

Posted on 13 November 2013 by Robert Canady

Having set the stage for a successful start to the 2013-14 season by beating Navy 72-45 in the grand opening of SECU Arena last Friday night, the Towson basketball team followed up on that Tuesday night with a 95-75 thrashing of Morgan State at home.  It’s the first time since February 1992 that the Tigers have had back to back wins of 20 points or more.

Navy, while not the typical easy pushover most teams schedule for an opening home game was honestly a team that the Tigers were expected to beat rather easily, and they did. Morgan presented a different challenge.  A very strong team that returned some veteran players, and another Baltimore area team that has gotten the better of Towson in recent years.  While coaches preach to their teams to never take those games lightly, it’s sometimes tough to get the players to buy in.

Towson students are filling the student section and providing strong support for the 2-0 Tigers.

However, having lost a couple of games just like that early last season, it’s safe to say that this year’s Tigers team learned from the past.   Having four seniors in the starting lineup helps the Tigers stay focused on so called ‘trap games.’   Head Coach Pat Skerry echoed those thoughts recently saying, “I’m relying on the veterans on this team to take leadership on and off the court, more this year than in the past.”

With a renowned team like Temple coming in later this week, Senior Jerrelle Benimon was asked if it was hard for the Tigers to not look past Morgan St.  “Coach always emphasizes take one game at a time.  So we took this game and then move on to tomorrow to game plan for Temple.”

While not a senior, sophomore point guard Jerome Hairston remembers the trouble the Tigers had against cross-town teams last year, “We were 0-3 against teams from Baltimore last year.  We’ve got to fix that this year,” he said referring to early season losses to Loyola, UMBC and Coppin State.

The Tigers played well in just about all phases of the game in the win over Navy.  Defense and rebounding are two staples of a Skerry coached team, and the Tigers held the Midshipmen to .311 percent from the field, while hitting on .47% of its on shots, and out rebounded Navy 46-33.   The Tigers were led by Pre Season CAA Player of the Year Jerrelle Benimon with 17 boards, while fellow senior Rafiel Guthrie led a balanced scoring attack with 16 points.

While he had an off night scoring wise against Navy with just five points.  Benimon bounced  back with 21 against the Bears to go along with his 14 rebounds.  Skerry said he was happy to see the quick start by Benimon, “I was really proud of the fact that Benimon and Hairston came out locked in.”

The Tigers appear to be a deeper team this year.  “We may go 10 deep this year,” said Skerry before the season started.  We are definitely deeper than we were last year.”   That was evidenced by the eight players who played at least 16 minutes in the opener, and nine players seeing double digit minutes against Morgan St.

While the season is certainly in its infancy, an early look at some of the numbers the Tigers have accumulated after just the first two games indicate the firepower of this team.  First and foremost is the scoring potential, Towson is averaging 83.5 points a game and giving up only 72.0.   Currently four Tigers are averaging in double figures, Guthrie leads the team with 18.0, followed by senior Marcus Damas and Benimon at 13.5 and senior guard Mike Burwell putting up 11.0 points per game.

Contributing to that lofty scoring average is the phenomenal shooting of the thus far.   The Tigers are shooting .520 from the field, .486 from beyond the three-point line, and a very solid  .710  from the free-throw line.   Three point shooting has been an early strength of the Tigers, led by Four McGlynn hitting on .545 of his long range shots, despite going 1-4 against the Bears.  Damas has been red hot as well shooting .500 on 4 of 8 attempts in the early going.  Damas injured his shoulder during the summer and couldn’t play in any games, so he just worked on his shooting.  This was mentioned by Hairston, “I just want to say how hard Marcus worked on shooting this summer.  He was frustrated to not be able to play (in Towson’s summer exhibition tour of Canada) so he just put up shot after shot and it shows.”

Senior Marcus Damas is leading a hot shooting Towson attack, by hitting on .500 of his 3-pointers

Asked his thoughts on why the team is shooting so much better this year than last year’s team, Damas explained, “It’s just a matter of practice and us really working on and knowing our spacing.   We have a lot of guys that can shoot well, but it just comes from practice and getting good looks.”

The three home games to start the season is another huge benefit to the Tigers.  After starting last season with its first 10 games on the road, the home atmosphere has been welcome.  That atmosphere includes the new state of the art SECU Arena in which the Tigers are feeling right at home.  A huge factor in these first two home games has been the Towson student section.  In years past the Tigers struggled to get much of a student turnout at all, and the ones that did come often left after halftime.

The first two games have produced a student section that fills the entire lower 2 sections that are devoted to students and spills into the upper bowl of the arena.   Despite both games being a blowout, the students have stayed until the very end of each game.   The two games have produced an average attendance of 3,300 and the Temple games should certainly attract at least that size of crowd if not more.

Towson will now face two traditional powers from the Philadelphia area, begging with Temple which visits SECU Arena on Thursday.  Three days later the Tigers will play their first road game of the year when they take the trip up I-95 to face Villanova.  Towson is 0-4 all-time against the Wildcats, with the last loss coming in 2008.

 

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