Wednesday’s 11-8 upset of No. 15 Drexel in a Colonial Athletic Association tournament semifinal put Towson one game away from achieving a pair of preseason objectives.
If the Tigers (9-7) can knock off No. 9 Penn State (12-3) Friday in University Park, Pa., they will capture their first conference tournament title since 2005 and seize the automatic qualifier for their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2007. It is a scenario that has motivated the coaches and players this season.
“That’s one of our main goals,” coach Shawn Nadelen said Thursday morning from the team hotel. “Our guys have worked hard for that, and I think that showed yesterday in our game. Drexel made a run in the third quarter just like they did in the first game, and our guys had the composure and wherewithal to weather that storm and rebound in the fourth quarter and lock it down. I think we showed our maturity and that’s going to hopefully continue in the championship game. Our goal is to win the CAA championship. We believe that we are capable of doing that every season. That’s something that we build the program on, and we’re obviously excited for that opportunity.”
For Towson, winning Friday is the only avenue to the NCAA tournament. With an RPI of 27, the team will not be in the conversation for one of the eight at-large bids, and that knowledge is not lost on Nadelen, who did not mind the “sudden death” nature of the showdown with the Nittany Lions.
“The fact that we do have to win the CAA to get there, that’s a nice goal to have,” he said. “If we win what we want to win, that will put us where we want to be, and that’s definitely a focus and a motivation for our team.”
The Tigers expended a lot of energy to get past the Dragons on Wednesday, but Nadelen said he’s more worried about his players’ physical conditioning than the possibility of a letdown.
“We’re going to have to monitor their physical status,” he said. “It was a pretty hot day up here yesterday. The sun was shining, and we played in the late afternoon when it was the hottest. So we’re monitoring the guys’ physical conditioning, and we’re going to counter that as best we can with hydration and nutrition and everything that we can to make sure that we’re physically ready to go. I think Penn State is in a similar boat. So I think the mental toughness is going to be more of a factor tomorrow than anything.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun