Suddenly, home not so sweet for Towson


Poised to celebrate their good fortune, Towson State's Tigers instead paused to contemplate the mysteries of life last night.

Like whatever became of their home-court advantage?

And will it return when the East Coast Conference tournament opens at the Towson Center two weeks hence?

Those were nagging questions Terry Truax faced up to after a wrenching 78-75 ECC loss to Drexel on his own Versturf surface, anyway.

For the second time this month, Towson State lost at home, albeit by a grand total of four points.

"It bothers me," the Tigers coach said, "that two [teams] came in here twice in 10 days and played harder than we did, and have gone after the ball more. Our next conference game here, if we don't win, the season's over.

"I don't want teams to feel comfortable they can come in here and beat us."

By virtue of Clarence Armstrong's three-point field goal with six seconds left, the Tigers (15-8, 9-1) blew a golden opportunity to clinch the regular-season ECC title and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

And that wasn't even the bad news. The bad news is that the Tigers now must clinch on the road. They play at second-place Hofstra Saturday, and at third-place Delaware Wednesday.

With only a non-conference affair against Youngstown State remaining on the schedule, Towson State has a 7-3 record at home this season. By contrast, the Tigers lost a total of three games the previous two seasons.

"There's nothing magical about us playing at home any more," Truax said, resignedly.

Winning streaks shattered like fine china last night. Say goodbye to Towson's 14-game ECC streak. And sayonara to its seven-gamer against Drexel (10-14, 5-4). And keep in mind that in games decided by five points or less, the Tigers are a modest 5-4.

There was a lot for the Tigers to be modest about last night. Their big three of Devin Boyd, Terrance Jacobs and Chuck Lightening combined to shoot 16-for-51, or 31 percent. Drexel's big three of Michael Thompson, Jonathan Raab and Armstrong hit on 22 of 34, or 64 percent. (Big three points: Drexel, 59-47.)

When Towson State missed, Drexel most often took the rebound. The Dragons took 29 of 46 caroms in the first half and held a 43-35 edge at the end. It helped make up for a Drexel eyesore of 22 turnovers. It also helped account for Drexel's eight-point lead early in the second half.

Even with all of the above, Towson State seemingly had gained control of the game in the final seven minutes. The Tigers assumed a 67-62 lead with 6:44 to play when Lewis Waller banked in a 7-footer from the lane. But they went scoreless for almost three minutes and Drexel finished with a 16-8 kick.

There were four ties down the stretch, the last at 75-all with 72 seconds left. Thompson (25 points) made a critical steal at :42. The Dragons ran the clock to :06 when Thompson penetrated from the left, then fired a pass out to Armstrong on the right. Armstrong nailed a bull's eye.

The game ended with Waller heaving a desperation shot from well beyond three-point range after Jacobs strained to in-bound the ball.

"I didn't know if there was time to dribble and shoot," said Waller, who turned and shot. "[Armstrong] made a tough shot. We just didn't play as well as we can play."

That's what worries Truax. The Tigers couldn't hold a 24-12 lead against Loyola last week, either. They are not comfortable with a lead.

"We haven't put anybody away all year," he said. "I don't know if we have the firepower to do that. But we can play with better composure and poise.

The next six days will tell.

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