When the Towson basketball team returns to the Towson center tonight for only the third time this season and the first time since December 19th, it will bring with it a more productive offense than it showed earlier in the season. The Tigers are currently on a three-game winning streak, all on the road including a pair of CAA wins last week at UNCW and Drexel.
Over the last three games, the Tigers have averaged 71.7 points a game. That is 19 points more per game than it averaged when it lost four straight from December 8th to December 19th. For the majority of the season, junior transfer Jerrelle Benimon has carried the load offensively for the Tigers, averaging a Double/Double (16.5 points and 11.7 rebounds)through the first 15 games.
However, recent scoring support from fellow transfer Mike Burwell, last year’s returning scorer Marcus Damas and freshman Jerome Hairston has provided the Tigers with a much more balanced attack. During the three game stretch, Damas, Burwell and Hairston have averaged 13, 10 and 10 points respectively. We’ve got some pretty good players, our hope was it was just a matter of time before you get your offense up to speed” said Tiger Coach Pat Skerry in a conference call to members of the media on Tuesday morning.
“Guys were missing some shots early in the year that they can probably make. We’re no-where near where we need to be in taking care of the ball, but the balance—scoring—is something that we expected out of the gate” Skerry continued.
One of those players making shots now is Burwell. Burwell, expected to provide a reliable outside threat to compliment the play of the front line, but he had yet to become a consistent threat. However, Burwell is hitting nearly 42% of his 3-pointers during the winning streak. Despite his struggles earlier in the season, Burwell had said coaches and his teammates had told him to keep looking for his shot. “We’re coming around a bit offensively, which is encouraging,” said Skerry.
It—the improved offensive play—is coming at an opportune time as league play is in full swing. Towson is 7-8 on the season and 2-0 in the CAA for the first time ever. While the Tigers are ineligible for post-season play in either the CAA Tournament or the NCAA tournament, each win puts the program a step further away from the Towson of the past. “I have great respect for our guys, in knowing what they inherited. They are all new. They have practiced very well and our chemistry improves every day. We have a lot of upside with this group,” Skerry said in regards to his team’s status.
The number of games on the road has helped this team build the chemistry that Skerry talked about. The players have spent a lot of time together the past two months. Here is a synopsis of the Tigers travel during the first eight weeks of the season. After opening with a road trip to Charleston to play the College of Charleston, the Tigers then made a 10-hour bus ride to Richmond, Kentucky where they played four straight days in the Comfort Suites Invitational. After making the same 10-hour trek back home, the Tigers did get to stay near campus for the next 11 days as they played 3 local road games, Loyola, UMBC and Georgetown, with a trip to Vermont squeezed in. A game that at the time was the Tigers signature win of the year.
After the Christmas break, the Tigers traveled nearly 3,000 miles across country to take on Oregon St. A trip that was right out of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, as it included a 3 hour delay at the airport in Chicago and then required a nearly two hour bus ride from the airport to the campus of Oregon St. The Tigers returned home that night after upsetting the Beavers and arrived back at BWI in the early morning hours of December 30th.
After a short New Years Eve break, the Tigers again went wheels up, flying to Raleigh, NC, where yet another nearly 2 hour bus drive awaited to Wilmington, to take on UNCW. Why stop for rest now, the Tigers immediately boarded another bus after the Wilmington game and drove through the night arriving back on campus around 5:00 AM on January 3rd. However, they needed to keep its bags packed as the next day it was back on the bus for the 1.5-hour drive up I-95 to Drexel. The Tigers had a leisurely day on Saturday before tipping off against the Dragons at 4 PM. Following its 13th road game of the year, the Tigers headed back to Towson on Saturday night enjoying its 69-66 upset of the Dragons.
The Tigers can now unpack for a while, as five of the next six games are at the Towson Center. The only road game during that stretch is the very short drive to Newark, DE next Wednesday to take on the Delaware Blue Hens.
A win tonight against William & Mary (7-6) would give the Tigers its first four-game winning streak since the 2000-01 season. Coach Skerry realizes the Tribe presents a big obstacle to the Tiger’s first home win of the season. “Major, major challenges, we are very focused on William & Mary. They are probably the best offensive team we will have faced to this point in the season.
We haven’t won at home so we have our work cut-out for us. I have great respect for what Coach Shaver and his team are bringing up here,” concluded Skerry.
-Photos courtsey of Towson Athletics-