If the Towson University men’s basketball team plans on closing the gap between themselves and first place Delaware in the CAA standings, it’s going to need some outside help. Not the typical help of another team knocking off the first place Blue Hens, although the Tigers would gladly accept that help as well. No, the Tigers need help from their outside shooters to support the one man wrecking crew that is Jerrelle Benimon. Benimon turned in another player of the year type performance (29 points 16 rebounds) on Saturday in the Tigers (12-8, 3-2 CAA)loss to Delaware (14-7, 6-0 CAA)in Newark.
Benimon almost singe handily pulled the Tigers out of a 15 point half time deficit with 20 second half points on 7-11 shooting from the field, and a clutch 6-7 from the free throw line. However, Benimon couldn’t get enough help from his teammates to get the Tigers any closer than 74-69 when he scored on a layup with 3:09 to play. The Tigers only managed two more field goals after that basket, a three- pointer by Marcus Damas and another lay-up by Benimon.
For the second game in a row, including last Wednesday’s 57-54 loss at the buzzer to Northeastern, the Tigers were unable to connect from the outside, only making 2-17 from long range. Starting guards Mike Burwell and Four McGlynn shot a combined 3-19, including a rhythm breaking 0-7 from three-point range in the two losses. The two cold shooting performances for the duo came out of the blue, as both had very strong games in the 72-57 road win at the College of Charleston less than seven days prior. Burwell, had his best overall game as a Tiger against the Cougars totaling 18 points with three assists and no turnovers in running the offense. McGlynn chipped in with 11 points on 3-4 three-point shooting and two free-throws in the win.
However, in the two recent losses the Tigers seem to forget they had the pre-season player of the year on the floor. In the loss at Northeastern, Benimon only got off four field goal attempts in being held to single digits (6 points) for the first time since the season opener against Navy.
In the those final three minutes against Delaware, of the Tigers last five field attempts four of them were three-pointers. This fact was not lost on head coach Pat Skerry who summed up the Tigers shot selection the last part of the game, “I’m a little bit disappointed. We do some things that start to work, then we like to play with fire once and a while and we get burned instead of sticking with what’s working. We took a couple quick three’s when we were obviously asserting ourselves inside. We talked about trying to ride this guy (motioning to Benimon sitting next to him) that’s usually a pretty good decision. I don’t know much, but I know that.”
When asked about McGlynn’s struggles of late, after hitting close to 45% on three pointers early in the season, Skerry said “I don’t know, we need him to make shots and obviously he didn’t. We want him to keep shooting the ball. You always worry about guys confidence, but I never talk to a guys about missing shots. You’re here because you’re a good player.”
When the Tigers are playing at their best, Benimon is scoring from just about anywhere. However to keep teams honest on Benimon the Tigers have to get help from the perimeter. Senior Rafriel Guthrie complimented Benimons production with 11 points of his own coming on 5-9 shooting. Senior Damas has averaged right at 12 points a game since starting for the Tigers three years ago during the 1-31 season. He is right at that mark again this year (12.3). in a bit of a surprise Damas is the Tigers leading three-point shooter hitting on 41% for the season, he has been on a bit of a hot streak of late shooting 7-15 for 47% over the last three games. While it’s nice to have the late game threat of Damas from long range, the Tigers need to have that same threat from the it’s guards as well. If not, they may see more of the 3-2 zone that Northeastern used so successfully in holding the Tigers to 31% shooting last week.
Towson faces a surprising Hofstra (3-2 CAA) team tonight, and can ill afford to fall to far behind the Blue Hens if they hope to live up to their selection as the pre-season favorite to win the conference. A win would put them at 4-2 and alone in second place for the moment. With one game left against Delaware the Tigers still have a good shot a first place, and if the Tigers get that outside help from William & Mary-the Blue Hens opponent on Wednesday night, that will be almost as welcome as a made three-pointer.