On a night when the Towson men's basketball team struggled to find its shooting touch, Jerrelle Benimon stepped up to help.
The senior forward scored 21 of his game-high 32 points in the second half to lead the Tigers to a 75-69 comeback win against visiting Temple before an announced 3,554 at SECU Arena on Wednesday night.
Benimon, the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Player of the Year, had a previous career high of 31 points, set against George Mason on Feb. 26. He also finished with 10 rebounds as Towson improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1972.
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Benimon shot 4-for-10 in the first half, then made seven of 14 attempts in the second.
“I missed a couple shots early,” Benimon said. “When I miss shots, I hate it, and I usually get down on myself. But I kept going, getting to the hole. I was settling a little bit, shooting a couple jump shots. I just figured I would get to the hole and we'd just beat them [by] overpowering them to the rim.”
Senior forward Marcus Damas added 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the Tigers struggled to find production elsewhere.
Reserve senior guard Rafriel Guthrie, who had a combined 36 points on 84.6 percent shooting in his first two games off the bench, finished with just six points, missing on nine of 11 attempts from the floor. Three starters — senior guard Mike Burwell, sophomore point guard Jerome Hairston and sophomore forward Timajh Parker-Rivera — combined for 16 points on just 6-of-19 shooting.
Towson, which shot better than 47 percent from the floor in its first two wins, struggled all night, shooting just 36.2 percent. But the team grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, leading to 15 second-chance points.
Trailing 56-49 midway through the second half, the Tigers scored eight unanswered points to take their first lead since nearly the five-minute mark of the first half.
Temple quickly went back ahead with a pair of free throws from both sophomore forward Quenton DeCosey and junior point guard Will Cummings, but Towson went on a 9-0 run bookended by baskets by Benimon that gave the Tigers a 66-60 lead.
The Owls cut the deficit to 68-65 after a 3-pointer by DeCosey with 1:13 left in regulation, and had a chance to trim it to one. But a layup attempt by senior guard Dalton Pepper was too hard off the glass, and a tip-in attempt by junior power forward Anthony Lee was off the mark. Damas collected the rebound and was fouled, sinking one of two free throws for a 69-65 lead.
Lee and Towson sophomore Four McGlynn traded free throws, and Lee's putback with 13.9 seconds left made it 71-69. But Benimon and Guthrie each made two free throws to cement the win.
“There was very little strategy that went on in the last 12 minutes,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said. “We just strapped it up and got stops and shared it. What was encouraging was I thought we made a step in the sense that the fellas figured some things out on their own, and that's something that we've got to continue to do, because when it gets loud like that in certain places, they don't hear what you're saying anyhow.”
Temple (1-2) was paced by junior power forward Anthony Lee (20 points and nine rebounds) and junior point guard Will Cummings (18 points, five rebounds and five assists), but the Owls surrendered a late lead as they fell to the Tigers for the first time in four meetings.
“We panicked a little bit,” Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. “I don't know that we're ready yet to win this game on the road against this particular group, who was very well coached and has got some senior leadership. Obviously, Benimon is a handful. … We've just got to tighten our things up a little bit more.”