The Towson men's basketball team did not let the program's first vote in the Associated Press Top 25 poll go to its collective head.
The Tigers scored 48 points in the first half and never looked back in a 95-75 thumping of visiting Morgan State before an announced 2,874 at SECU Arena on Tuesday night.
Senior forward Jerrelle Benimon had 23 points, 14 rebounds and six assists to pace Towson (2-0). Senior guard Rafriel Guthrie posted 18 points and five rebounds off the bench, and senior forward Marcus Damas added 17 points on 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
The offense shot 57.1 percent from the field, including 56.3 percent from 3-point range, in an impressive performance that seemed to support the team's vote in the national poll.
"We didn't really talk about it that much as a team, honestly," Benimon said. "Everybody heard that it happened. I was actually excited. I thought it was a really big thing that we actually got a vote in the Top 25, and hopefully we can continue to win and make it into the Top 25."
The Tigers won their first two games of the season for the first time since 2006. With last Friday's 72-45 victory over Navy, they have defeated both of their first two opponents by at least 20 points for the first time since the 1972-73 team — which was then in Division II — beat Shippensburg, 75-55, and York, 108-75.
The combined 167 points scored in the first two wins are the most to begin a year since the 1991-92 season, when the Tigers scored a total of 171 in losses to Colorado and North Carolina.
"We were locked in," Towson coach Pat Skerry said. "I'd like us to be locked in for 40 minutes. We're not quite there yet, but we had a good performance tonight."
Senior guard Justin Black paced the Bears (0-2) with 28 points and four rebounds, while senior guard Anthony Hubbard chipped in 14 points. But coach Todd Bozeman lamented the team's defensive effort.
"This, right here, is ridiculous," he said. "You're not going to win many games when the other team shoots almost 60 percent from both the field and the 3-point line. So I give them credit for that. Pat's put together a good team."
The Tigers trailed just once, at 10-9 less than four minutes into the game, but that deficit was erased by a three-point play by Benimon.
Morgan State's troubles began when Black was called for his second foul just 4:24 into the first half.
Without their leading scorer from last season — Black averaged 14.2 points last year and had a team-best 13 points in an 89-50 loss to No. 11 Ohio State last Saturday — the Bears struggled to find much traction on offense.
That opened the door for Towson, which went on a 7-2 run to take a 19-12 lead.
After Morgan State sandwiched a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Four McGlynn with a pair of baskets by Hubbard, the Tigers went on a 19-11 spurt to build a 41-27 advantage with about five minutes left in the first half.
Towson stretched its lead to 20 when the team scored seven unanswered points in a five-minute span bridging the first and second halves. Black ended the Bears' drought by sinking one of two free throws 2:05 into the second half, but by then, the damage was done.
Notes: Towson finished the game connecting on nine of 16 shots from behind the arc. Morgan State went just 2-for-12 from 3-point range. … The last time the Tigers won back-to-back games in the regular season by at least 20 points in each contest was in 1992, when they beat Buffalo, 98-65, on Feb. 17 and Brooklyn, 89-66, on Feb. 20. … The Bears had won three of the past four meetings with Towson, but Tuesday night's game was the first between the two programs since Dec. 22, 2009.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun