The Towson men's lacrosse team's hopes for a win against a high-profile opponent and some momentum heading into the Colonial Athletic Association tournament fizzled in a span of 4 minutes andd 2seconds Tuesday night.

That's how long it took for No. 9 Penn to turn a two-goal lead into a six-goal cushion early in the third quarter of an eventual 15-9 thumping of the Tigers on Tuesday before an announced 446 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The game was delayed nearly two hours by lightning midway through the third quarter. Towson was unable to bounce back and suffered its third consecutive loss and fourth in the past five games. That is the anchor the team will have to drag into its CAA tournament semifinal next Wednesday.

Coach Shawn Nadelen pointed to the third quarter as key to the team’s stumble.

“It’s hard to swallow,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to do that. We continue to make mistakes through that first half and early into the third quarter where we were just missing opportunities and getting out-hustled in ground ball play, and that’s something we can’t allow.”

Towson still doesn't know whom it will play in the conference tournament. There are a number of scenarios, but the team will be either the No. 3 or 4 seed, which means an away game at either second-seeded Drexel (9-4) or top-seeded Hofstra (10-3).

Fresh off the first hat trick of his career in Saturday's 13-7 loss to Drexel, junior midfielder Justin Mabus led Towson with two goals and two assists. Freshman attackman Joe Seider (Hereford) scored three times, and senior attackman Thomas DeNapoli added one goal and two assists.

Trailing 6-4 at halftime, the Tigers quickly found themselves in Penn's rearview mirror.

Thirty-six seconds into the third quarter, senior midfielder Drew Belinksy faked left and Towson freshman short-stick defensive midfielder Jack Adams (Hereford) went for it. That allowed Belinsky to step to his right and stick a high shot past junior goalkeeper Tyler White.

Just 16 seconds later, senior midfielder Zack Losco scored. Freshman midfielder Chris Hilburn followed less than a minute later when he dodged past Towson sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Zack Gregory and rolled a shot past White.

And finally, junior midfielder Andrew Staller ran down the right alley and put the ball between White's legs with 10:58 left in the quarter.

DeNapoli stopped the bleeding when he side-armed a long-range shot from the left point with 10:03 remaining, but Penn regained the six-goal gap when junior midfielder Mike Power converted a pass from freshman attackman Kevin Brown.

That's when the lightning delay was called, and when the teams returned to the field at 10:12 p.m., Towson failed to put a dent into the gap.

Nadelen said the players dealt with the delay well.

“We kept them loose,” he said. “We got them out stretching a couple times and before we hit the field, we game-planned and switched up what we were doing. We weren’t going to play on our heels anymore. We got out of the zone, we upped the tempo aggressively on the defensive end and looked for chances on the offensive end. We played them even for the last 22 minutes, and that’s a little bit of the silver lining.”

Brown paced the Quakers – who eclipsed their previous season high of 14 goals – with four points on one goal and three assists, and sophomore attackman Nick Doktor scored three goals. Penn, which picked up its fifth straight victory and improved to 8-3, will meet St. John’s on Saturday before finding out its seeding in the upcoming Ivy League tournament.

“Intrinsically, it’s good to play well on the road on a Tuesday night with a pretty significant delay against what I feel is a pretty good team,” coach Mike Murphy said. “I think it could have some implications in terms of the NCAA selection down the road. But for us even more specifically, to play well offensively, to kind of get rolling there – it might be the most goals we’ve scored this year – that was good. We started playing and hitting shots. So that was very significant.”

edward.lee@baltsun.com