Having lost two games in six days, Towson basketball coach Pat Skerry let it be known he’s not pleased at all with his team’s performance of late. “This is as disappointed as I can possibly be in our group right now,” Skerry said shortly after the Tigers loss to UMBC 66-62 Saturday night at the RAC on UMBC’s campus.
So what will those changes be? Skerry didn’t specifically mention the changes he plans on, but he didn’t hide his displeasure with the shot selection of freshman guard Jerome Hairston commenting, “Hairston is 4-16, not good shots, that’s too many shots clearly.” Hairston did end up with 14 points, but only had one assist and two turnovers. The stats bear out Skerry’s thoughts. On the season Hairston is hitting only .371 from the field, including a dismal .240 from beyond the three-point arc. Hairston has shown incredible talent in getting the ball up the floor, and has great ability to get the ball to open teammates, but he has often passed up those opportunities to hoist up quick shots. He leads the team in field goal attempts with 70 on the season, and is averaging only 2.2 assist per game, not the ratio you usually look for in your point guard.
“A big big emphasis before this game was not to settle for the threes. We knew threes were going to show and not to settle for them, but we did and we didn’t shoot a good percentage,” explained Skerry. As a team the Tigers went 7-22 on three’s for 31.8% shooting.
Skerry indicated changes could be coming in the front court. “Barrington (Alston) and (Timajh) Parker-Rivera are going to play more and hopefully we get Marcus back,” meaning Junior Marcus Damas, who is still recovering from the fall he took at the end of the Loyola game. Alston and Parker-Rivera are a promising pair of freshman who have played both the four and five positions at times this year. Parker-Rivera has been particularly effective, averaging four boards a game in just 13 minutes of action per game.
It’s not clear who Parker-Rivera or Alston would replace in the lineup, but Graduate Student Bilal Dixon has seen his minutes per game decrease from 29.3 during the first 3 games to 23.0 over the last four games. Dixon’s production however, has remained steady at 8.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Dixon cannot be blamed for the poor shot selection or shooting percentage. He is leading the team in field goal percentage hitting on .520 of his shots. He has attempted only 50 shots from the field on the year, the only player in the regular starting lineup who has fewer, is Damas and he sat out the UMBC game with his injury.
One indication that Dixon might be the one benched in favor of Alston or Parker-Rivera was the performance of UMBC center Brett Roseboro. Roseboro came into the game having scored only 23 points on the season. He had his first career double/double with 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Tigers. He scored 11 of the points in the second half hitting on 5-5 shot attempts. All of them coming at or near the basket.
Junior transfer Jerelle Benimon continues to be the Tigers best overall player, he had his third double/double of the season with 13 points and 16 rebounds against the Retrievers. But yet, it seems Skerry is looking to him for more production. “It’s hard to say a guy with 13 rebounds and 16 points didn’t play well, but we need to get more out of Jerelle,” Skerry said. Benimon is shooting well, hitting .492 from the field and is one rebound away from averaging a double/double for the season. He leads the Tigers with 14.4 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Will the changes come in the front court or will they come in the backcourt as Skerry continued to lament the play of the guards? “Our perimeter didn’t play well, Guthrie (Rafael) was really bad, Kris (Walden—2-3 on three-pointers—wasn’t too bad, too many shots from Jerome. Mike (Burwell)—14 points—was better, he’s practiced the right way, so that was a good sign.”
When asked to compare this year’s team to last year’s team by one of the UMBC reporters, Skerry responded, “I liked coaching last year’s team better. I knew we weren’t very good, but they gave it. This team has not figured what it means to win yet, how to win. They work pretty hard and they compete and they want to win. But they don’t understand what it means with shot selection with the time and the score. Not breaking out of the set and settling for threes. Till we do that, we’ll lose games we should win.”
With all the new faces incorporated into this year’s lineup, people expected it might take a while for the Tigers to figure out there roles and get comfortable with each other offensively. However Skerry isn’t taking the easy way out, “That’s true, but that would be just an excuse. We should be better than 3-4, we’re underachieving right now.”
So the new look Tigers of 2012-13 may have another new look when they tip off Wednesday night against Vermont.