When he needed a big basket and a big rebound, Towson coach Pat Kennedy turned to Troy Franklin and Robert Nwankwo respectively on Saturday night at the Towson Center. And both players delivered in a big way.
Franklin, a freshman guard (Mt. Carmel, Baltimore), scored 11 of his 18 points in the game’s final 5:40, including two 3-pointers on successive trips down the court, and Nwankwo had eight rebounds in the second half as the Tigers held off Hampton University, 82-73, to improve to 2-1 on the season. Hampton (MEAC) came into the game on the heels of a major win on Thursday night, having knocked off defending CAA champion George Mason, 50-44.
Towson’s Jarrel Smith led all scorers with 24 points, while Brian Morris chipped in 9 points and 9 assists for the Tigers, who play host to New Jersey Institute of Technology on Monday night.
Towson controlled the first 30 minutes of the game, before Hampton rallied midway through the second half to take a 60-57 lead. But the Tigers went on a 12-2 run from that point, boosted by Franklin’s two 3-point buckets and a three-pointer from Josh Thornton. Hampton cut it to a four point margin at 72-68 with just under two minutes to go but that was a close as the Pirates would get.
Through three games, Towson looks to be MUCH improved over last year. Junior college transfer Calvin Lee is a legitimate CAA player and fellow transfer Brian Morris (Richmond) gives the Tigers a player who can both handle and shoot the ball. Add to those two players the emerging Jarrel Smith and the black and gold have a formidable three-man ensemble – and each player has a talent unique to himself.
The Tigers have displayed a propensity for turning the ball over a little too much in the early stages of the season, but there’s no question this year’s edition of “Pat’s Cats” is Kennedy’s best team yet.
Following Monday’s home game with NJIT, the Tigers will face a major test next weekend, playing Villanova on Friday night (in Philadelphia) and either Rhode Island or Penn State on Saturday night.
On December 3rd at the RAC Arena, UMBC will host Towson in what should be the local game of the year.