By Patrick Stevens
For The Baltimore Sun
10:25 PM EST, January 23, 2013
Jerrelle Benimon took a seat with 16 seconds remaining in Towson's latest loss to George Mason on Wednesday and looked to the floor, able to glance back up only as the buzzer sounded.
The final minute, along with most of the Tigers' 77-67 setback, was tough to watch.
George Mason flustered Benimon and the Tigers before 2,005 at the Towson Center, earning its earning 20th consecutive victory in the series and remaining unbeaten in the series since Towson joined the Colonial Athletic Association in 2001-02.
"We played hard," Tigers coach Pat Skerry said. "We didn't play very intelligently on the defensive end of the floor. We took way too many 3s. With us, we're not an offensive juggernaut, so we have to be great defensively and clearly we weren't."
Rafriel Guthrie scored a career-high 18 points for the Tigers (10-11, 5-3 CAA), who have dropped consecutive games for the first time in a month. But perhaps most significantly, it was a rough night for Benimon, who was held to 16 points and eight rebounds.
Guard Sherrod Wright had 24 points for George Mason (12-7, 5-2), which has not lost to Towson since Jan. 6, 1992. It was the 10th 20-point game of the season for Wright, who is arguably the top challenger to Benimon for the CAA's player of the year award.
There was little question who enjoyed the better night Wednesday. While Wright worked his way to the foul line 17 times, Benimon hardly seemed like himself.
The Georgetown transfer had four turnovers, shot 5 of 15 from the floor, scored only four points in the first half and managed just three rebounds in the final 28 minutes. He entered the night averaging 18.6 points and 11.7 rebounds in conference play.
"He let his frustrations get to him," Skerry said. "He hurt us on both ends of the floor. You want to be a prime-time guy, you play every night. He was bad. He took bad shots. He was really bad defensively and then he hurt us at the foul line. He has to play better. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in, but there's other things. You can still guard. You still rebound. He took some horrific, horrific shots."
George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said there was little unusual about the Patriots' approach against Benimon.
"I think we're a pretty good defensive team," Hewitt said. "When we keep people off the foul line, we become really good defensively."
While Benimon's struggles were obvious, few beyond Guthrie thrived on offense for the Tigers. Towson was plagued by 16 turnovers and permitted Mason to shoot 49.1 percent as the Patriots maintained a small but consistent lead before pulling away in the final minute.
It was the second straight game the Tigers allowed an opponent to shoot 46 percent, the first time all season that's occurred.
"If that happens, we'll lose," Skerry said. "It's reality. For whatever reason, we got away from some things we have to do defensively. We can't win shootouts. It's not going to happen. We might like to. We might think we can. It's just not going to happen."
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