Fortunately for the UMBC men's basketball team, it did not have to go to overtime for the fifth time in seven games. Unfortunately, the Retrievers did not win, either.
Towson senior forward Marcus Damas scored a game-high 22 points, and the host Tigers overcame a lackadaisical performance in the first half to outlast UMBC, 75-60, before an announced 1,879 at SECU Arena on Tuesday night.
The Tigers improved to 4-2 and snapped a two-game losing skid despite playing without starting point guard Jerome Hairston. The sophomore has been suspended indefinitely, but coach Pat Skerry declined to elaborate on the specifics of Hairston's infraction.
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"Next man up," Skerry said of Hairston, who had averaged 5.0 points and 1.8 assists in five starts this season. "We've got a lot of good players."
Sophomore guard Four McGlynn made his first start of the season, but senior guard Mike Burwell assumed most of the ball-handling duties for Towson. Burwell had four points, four rebounds and three assists, and committed four turnovers in 33 minutes of play.
"It's definitely a different role for me," Burwell said. "But going out to Canada [for exhibitions] where we played this summer, I got a little experience doing it. So I'm definitely ready for the new role and new position, and I'm definitely going to give it my best.."
Leading by just three points at halftime, 31-28, Towson began to separate in the second half, embarking on a 14-6 run to take a 45-34 advantage. The Retrievers cut the deficit down to five with almost 13 minutes left, but that was the closest they would get to catching the Tigers.
Damas and senior forward Jerrelle Benimon paced Towson in the second half. The team's leader in points (18.2), rebounds (11.4) and assists (3.6), Benimon scored all 19 of his points in the final 20 minutes. He also had six of his eight rebounds and three of his game-best six assists after halftime.
Damas scored 14 points in the second half, going 4-for--7 from the floor and 2-for-4 from 3-point range. He also took all five of his free throws in the period, sinking four.
"I was just running the floor, and the team was doing a good job of finding me," Damas said. "We just work hard on our shots every day. Every time I get out on the floor, it's a great opportunity to make shots."
Senior forward Chase Plummer led the Retrievers (2-5) with 17 points and four rebounds. But freshman forward Rodney Elliott (John Carroll), who had led the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, was limited to eight points on 2-for-5 shooting because of foul trouble that confined him to the bench for much of the second half. He fouled out with 3:06 left in regulation.
UMBC, which has now lost three straight contests, also struggled to find its shooting touch, connecting on just 28.1 percent of its second-half field goals and finishing at 28.8 percent for the game.
"Shooting hasn't been our forte this year," coach Aki Thomas said. "We've struggled some games more than others, but it's just one of those things where we've got to get into the gym and keep shooting. Tonight was not one of our best shooting nights. The biggest thing is, we have to continue to shoot with confidence, and when shots present themselves, we have to go ahead and jump up and shoot them like you're going to make them each time."
Notes: Towson improved to 35-20 all time against UMBC, and has won five of the past seven meetings. … The Tigers have won their last eight games at home. … The Retrievers are 0-4 on the road this season. … UMBC shook up its starting lineup, benching junior guard Joey Getz and junior center Brett Roseboro in favor of senior guard Quentin Jones and freshman center David Kadiri. Kadiri scored three points, but did not have a rebound. Jones scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting. Getz and Roseboro were just slightly better, with Getz scoring two points and Roseboro one.