Despite losing records overall and in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Northeastern men's basketball team was the kind of opponent Towson coach Pat Skerry was leery of. In fact, the day before Wednesday night's contest, Skerry had expressed his concerns on a conference call, saying, "We know they can absolutely beat us."
Skerry's worries proved prescient as the host Tigers could not solve the Huskies' zone defense or Scott Eatherton and sophomore guard David Walker canned a deep 3-pointer as time expired to give the Huskies a 57-54 win before an announced 1,177 at SECU Arena in Towson.
Senior forward Marcus Damas led Towson with 21 points and five rebounds, and senior guard Rafriel Guthrie added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.
The Tigers watched their five-game winning streak come to an end and suffered their first loss in the conference, dropping to 12-7 overall and 3-1 in the CAA. The setback means Delaware (13-7, 5-0), Towson's opponent on Saturday, is the lone undefeated team in the league.league.
Trailing by 19 at halftime, the Tigers mounted a furious comeback and eventually tied the score at 54 when sophomore shooting guard Four McGlynn, who was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left, made all three free throws.
Junior point guard Marco Banegas-Flores walked the ball up the court and passed to Walker, who proved to be the hero with his buzzer-beating 3-pointer that officials confirmed after watching a replay.
"Marco pushed it down, he made a good pass and fortunately, my guy played far enough off me, and I shot a regular shot," said Walker, who finished with eight points, five rebounds and a game-high four steals. "It was deep, but I got lucky and fortunately, it went in."
Said Guthrie: "I kind of knew he was going to pull it. They had walked the ball up the court. They didn't rush it. So you kind of knew they were going for the three. There were six seconds on the clock. So there wasn't much time to get to the rim. But they had run a little play with me and Marcus switching. He pulled up and made it."
Northeastern improved to 6-14 and 3-3 courtesy of Eatherton, a junior forward who was just one rebound shy of adding to his Division I-leading 15th double-double as he finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. He outdueled Towson senior forward Jerrelle Benimon, who was tied for second in the country with 12 double-doubles but could manage just six points and 13 rebounds.
Eatherton scored 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the first half and consistently drew the attention of the Tigers. But when the Towson defense collapsed on Eatherton, he kicked the ball out to his teammates for open 3-pointers.
Northeastern shot 75 percent (6-of-8) from behind the 3-point line and was led by junior guard Demetrius Pollard, who connected on 2-of-3 long-range bombs. The Huskies shot 56.5 percent (13-of-23) for the half.
On the other side of the floor, the Tigers offense failed to figure out Northeastern's 3-2 zone, which challenged Towson to shoot from the perimeter. Content to settle for long-distance attempts, the Tigers made just 2-of-15 attempts from 3-point range.
Early in the first half, the offense went 5 minutes, 18 seconds between field goals, and the Huskies took advantage by going on a 10-3 run. Near the end of the frame, the Tigers went 2:59 between field goals, and Northeastern embarked on a 10-0 spurt.
"We were not ready to play," Skerry said. "That falls on me. It's disappointing. We've got to correct it."
Notes: Sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera landed on his tailbone while going up for a shot with 4:47 left in the second half. After a few minutes writhing on the floor in obvious pain, he walked back to the locker room and did not return. "He had a fall a couple weeks ago, which is painful," Skerry said. "But he's as tough as they come, and [freshman center] Walter [Foster] gave us a good boost late." … Towson's frustration on offense spilled out among the players. When Skerry called a timeout with 2:04 left in the first half, Guthrie and Foster jawed at each other while walking to the bench. A little later, Guthrie – visibly upset at the number of three-pointers being hoisted by his teammates – yelled at McGlynn. After halftime, however, cooler heads had prevailed. … Towson's 13-game winning streak at home came to an end. The loss was the program's first at home since Jan. 23, 2013 when George Mason won 77-67. The Tigers' last loss to a conference opponent occurred on Jan. 12, 2013 when Northeastern won, 70-59.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun