By Patrick Stevens, For The Baltimore Sun
10:37 PM EST, February 6, 2013
The Towson men's basketball team might have pieced together its most impressive performance all season while throttling UNC Wilmington on Monday.
The Tigers went out Wednesday and looked even better.
Jerrelle Benimon scored 21 points as Towson blasted Delaware, 85-65, to complete a season sweep of the Blue Hens before an announced 2,409 at Towson Center.
"We've played the best we have all year for 40 minutes," coach Pat Skerry said.
It stemmed from Towson's efficiency on offense as it rolled up back-to-back 80-point outings for the first time since late in the 2009-10 season.
It was influenced in part by stout work on the glass, where Towson (13-12, 8-4 Colonial Athletic Association) grabbed 77.8 percent of the rebounds on the defensive end and denied second-chance opportunities to the Blue Hens (11-12, 6-4).
But nowhere was it more evident than in the Tigers' ability to fluster Delaware guard Devon Saddler, the Colonial Athletic Association's leading scorer.
Saddler (Aberdeen) found himself matched up against forward Marcus Damas, who helped hold him to 4-for-13 shooting from the field in the teams' first meeting last month. Saddler managed 20 points Wednesday night but did half of his damage at the foul line this time, shooting 4-for-20 from the floor.
"Anytime a guy has to take 20 shots to get 20 points, we did an unbelievable job on him," Skerry said. "Marcus has done a great job on him both games."
It was another sign of growth from Damas, who scored 16 points as the Tigers rolled in a game they never trailed. Towson leans on him as a defensive stopper, and he badgered Saddler into missed shots when the Delaware guard worked his way into the lane.
That was common for the Blue Hens, who made just 10 of their 48 attempts inside the 3-point line.
"It's a great feeling," Damas said. "Part of the culture here at Towson is playing defense, and I take great pride in defending and being able to make a good scorer in Saddler struggle."
The 6-foot-7 Damas had some help in limiting Saddler, a 6-2 junior. Mike Burwell and Rafriel Guthrie spent time on him as well, and Saddler found his space limited when he ventured into the paint.
"Towson is such a big team up front, and they have a lot of length," Saddler said. "Every time it seemed like when I drove it in there, everybody was in the lane. They're a good defensive team, and every time I drove everybody was in the lane. I tried to maneuver around their big guys. He didn't play me different from anybody we played all year. He's a good defender and he played well all night."
The same couldn't be said of the Blue Hens, who saw their three-game winning streak end. Delaware gave up the first 11 points, trailed by 10 at the break and watched Towson score seven straight to open the second half.
Jerome Hairston (17 points) and Burwell (12 points) also reached double figures for the Tigers, who — after a pair of victories over UNC Wilmington — have swept two CAA opponents for the first time since 2006-07.
"They put it on us tonight, and we didn't have a whole lot of answers for what happened," said Delaware coach Monte Ross, whose frustration led to a technical foul in the final six minutes of the rout.
The victory left Towson in a tie for second place in the conference with James Madison, three games behind Northeastern. And while it might be difficult to track down the Huskies, there is reason for Skerry to be optimistic as his second season with the Tigers nears its finish.
Towson has cut down on turnovers of late, and in both of its victories this week it has effectively funneled the ball inside while crisply running its offense. Now, the Tigers need a split of their final six games to secure their first winning season since 1995-96.
"We're just going to try to get better and finish the right way," Skerry said. "We're in a race and we know we have a major game Saturday [at Georgia State]."
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