The newest member of Division I had the misfortune to join the East Coast Conference just when it was disintegrating, but it isn't going to miss Towson State when the Tigers move to the Big South next season. Towson State, making a serious run toward its third straight ECC title, routed Buffalo, 98-65, before 956 fans.
Towson State (13-11, 8-1) won its ninth straight since a 13-point loss at Bucknell Jan. 20. It's the longest win streak the Tigers have had since moving up to Division I in 1981, but they have a way to go to match the 23-game roll that put them atop the NCAA Division II poll in 1977. It was also their 11th straight win at the Towson Center, where they are unbeaten this year.
Buffalo (2-20, 0-11), which had a losing record in Division II last season and dressed only nine players, lost its sixth straight loss. The Bulls got a game-high 32 points from senior guard John Blalock but were pummeled on the boards, 52-26.
"I feel for them," Towson State coach Terry Truax said. "The circumstances are against them. I can't try to build them up into the Lakers, but last night [Sunday], I looked at the tape of our game at Buffalo [a 12-point victory Jan. 12], and we never took control until the last five minutes."
The issue was decided somewhat earlier last night, as Towson State led 39-19 with five minutes left in the first half and 71-35 on Matt Campbell's three-point play with 11:41 remaining. The Tigers followed a familiar script, as Terrance Jacobs, the senior guard from Southern High, had an easy 27 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists.
Jacobs is averaging 27.3 points during the Tigers' win streak, and he's strengthened his case for ECC Player of the Year honors. Earlier in the day, Jacobs was named the Division I Player of the Week in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which includes players from every league in the East.
It wasn't the only honor for a Tigers player. Junior guard Craig Valentine, who went to Wilde Lake High, learned that he is one of District II's five nominees for the GTE Academic All-America team. Valentine, who joins two players from La Salle and one each from Bucknell and Princeton, was one of the reserves whose numbers benefited from the blowout.
Twelve of the 13 players Truax used scored, including Patrick Manning, who got his first points of the season. Sophomore center John James had a career-high 13 points, the same figure as senior forward Chuck Lightening, and junior forward Larry Brown had eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Freshman guard Scooter Alexander had all five of his assists in the first half, and Valentine took over at the point for much of the second half, finishing with four assists. Two days after a season-high 32 assists against UMBC, the Tigers had 22 assisted baskets, one reason they made 58.5 percent (38-for-65) of their shots.
"We're in more of a passing mentality than we were in the beginning of the season," Valentine said. "Once we started passing the ball better, we started winning."