NEWARK, DEL. — Towson coach Pat Skerry wondered if it was the longest basketball game in which he’d ever been involved.
But it might have benefited the Tigers if they had more than the two hours and 15 minutes they spent trying to cope with Delaware Saturday in a foul-littered Colonial Athletic Association showdown at the Carpenter Center.
Towson trailed by 15 at halftime and rallied to within four but couldn’t get closer, falling to the first-place Blue Hens, 83-76, in front of 4,138 fans.
Preseason CAA coaches/media poll favorite Towson (12-8 overall, 3-2 CAA) lost its second straight.
The game was slowed by 59 personal fouls (31 Towson/28 Delaware) and the teams attempted 80 free throws (41 Delaware/39 Towson). Three Tigers fouled out: Barrington Alston (8:36 left), Rafriel Guthrie (6:23) and Marcus Damas (15 seconds).
What truly cost the Tigers was being unable to quiet the CAA’s highest-scoring offense (81.1 points per game) not converting enough of their own possessions late.
“We didn’t quite guard well enough, but they score the ball in a lot of different ways,” Skerry said. “I’d like to think we’re a little bit better than an 11.8 percent 3-point shooting team. We weren’t today. That makes it a little bit harder on the road against a good team.”
Delaware (14-7, 6-0) has won eight straight and is off to its best start in 13 CAA seasons.
Towson outrebounded the Blue Hens, 50-33, with 2013 CAA player of the year Jerrelle Benimon getting 29 points and 16 rebounds. But Delaware shot 43.3 percent from the field (26-for-60) to Towson’s 40.4 (23-for-57). While Delaware was just 5-for-21 on 3-pointers, it surpassed Towson’s 2-for-17.
Damas scored 12 points and Guthrie 11 for the Tigers, but Skerry lamented Benimon not having more looks on pivotal late possessions.
“It’s usually a pretty good decision to get him the ball as much as humanly possible,” Skerry said.
Senior guard Devon Saddler led four Blue Hens in double figures with 23 points, including a timely 3-pointer that gave Delaware a 79-71 lead with 1:04 left and Towson threatening. It was his seventh straight game with 20 or more points, tying the UD record.
“It was a choppy, hard-fought game,” Skerry said. “Great atmosphere. Credit to the Delaware people for coming out. It’s been a good experience for us. We know every night we play now is a big game, unlike a couple years ago. We’re going to get people’s best shot, and that was certainly the case today.”
Delaware never trailed in the first half, closing with an 11-0 run that gave it a 40-25 halftime lead. The teams committed a combined 29 fouls (16 by Towson) and took 41 free throws (21 by Towson) in the first half. Towson’s 13 first-half turnovers surpassed its per-game season average (12.7). The Tigers finished with 17.
Towson trailed Northeastern 40-21 at home Wednesday night, and rallied to tie the game before the Huskies’ David Walker won it, 57-54, on a 35-foot shot at the buzzer. The Tigers hoped for a similar comeback against the Hens, and appeared capable.
An 11-1 run concluding with Guthrie’s driving layup pulled Towson within 47-40 with 14:57 remaining. The Tigers later got within four on several occasions, the last 67-63 on Benimon’s drive with 6:02 left.
Jarvis Threatt’s 3-point play then gave the Hens breathing room and Towson never got closer than five.
With back-to-back losses characterized by slow starts, Towson needs to concentrate on playing a consistent 40 minutes, Benimon said, as it prepares for Monday night’s visit from Hofstra.
“I don’t think it’s a confidence issue,” Benimon said. “I think it’s just spurts in the game, like in the first half, we just didn’t play as well as we usually do. It’s just playing the same the entire game.”