Towson impressive in debut

November 14, 2008 | Drew Forrester

No sense in getting worked up over the first game of the year.

But…

Pat Kennedy found himself some basketball players in the off-season.

Towson University kicked off year #5 of the Pat Kennedy era with an impressive 86-68 home win over Navy on Friday night before a nice crowd (I’m guessing 2,500 or so…a REAL 2,500 if you know what I mean…) at the Towson Center.

Josh Thornton had the hot hand for the Tigers, pouring in 24 points including four three-pointers during a five minute stretch of the second half when Towson put the game away with an early 28-6 run.  Newcomer Jarrel Smith added 18 in his Tigers’ debut and junior college transfer Calvin Lee had 10 points and 9 rebounds in his first outing in black and gold.

Towson’s backcourt appears in good hands with Richmond transfer Brian Morris.  He handled the bulk of the point guard duties on Friday (10 points, 8 assists) after Baltimore product Troy Franklin (Mt. Carmel HS) got into early foul trouble and played only 7 minutes in the first half.  Morris can distribute the ball and shoot it if necessary…and looked comfortable on the court with Thornton when the two played together throughout the second half.

Rebounding was a problem for Towson last year, but if game one was any indication of things to come, Kennedy and his coaching staff won’t have much concern about his team’s work on the boards in ’08-09. Sophomore Robert Nwanko (6’9″) added 15 pounds in the off-season and looked the part of a potentially dominant defensive player on Friday…of course, the CAA produces players bigger and stronger than those offered by Navy in the home opener.  But Nwanko looks to be a very promising player for Towson.

In all, it was a good start for the Tigers, who appear to be much more athletic than a year ago and have several players who can handle the ball in the backcourt.  

Keep in mind, three players (Rick Brown, Jr. Hairston, Tony Durant) were suspended for the opener as part of their punishment for an incident at a campus party back in September.  Based on Friday’s game against Navy, Durant and Brown might have trouble finding playing time anyway this season – but Hairston figures to play a key role for the Tigers providing he stays out of trouble following his 3-game suspension.

The Tigers travel to Niagara on Sunday for their road opener.

Towson returns home next Saturday to take on Hampton University.

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