For the first time in his 11 years as head basketball coach at Towson State, Terry Truax is over the .500 mark, but he wasn't around to see it happen last night.
Truax watched his Tigers stumble to a 28-27 halftime lead against UMBC, then was ejected after getting hit with a double technical foul as the half ended.
Towson State then responded with an offensive blitz against the Retrievers. Led by guards Scooter Alexander and Ralph Blalock, the Tigers broke loose from a 42-42 deadlock by scoring 47 points over the final 13 minutes to take an 89-78 victory before 1,026 at the Towson Center.
"They [UMBC] started pressing, and we started getting a lot of easy shots off of it. Everybody started getting into the flow," said Alexander, who scored 20 points, pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds and added six assists.
"It was a dead first half. After Coach got ejected, we had to get our heads together," he added. "We can't expect a dramatic comeback every game. We've got to put it together for 40 minutes."
The Tigers (12-7, 7-2), who won for the seventh time in eight tries to move into a three-way tie with Campbell and Radford for the Big South Conference lead, put it together for the final 20 minutes while winning their 15th straight at home.
After shooting only 34.3 percent in the first half, Towson State hit 18 of 27 shots (66.7 percent) after halftime, mainly on transition layups against the press of UMBC (5-12, 4-5). The Tigers also held the Retrievers to 34.2 percent shooting.
Blalock's performance reflected Towson State's see-saw evening the most. He scored only four points in the first half, then exploded for 20 second-half points to finish with a game-high 24.
Truax's ejection came as the first half ended, when he got into a shouting match with an official, William Bush, over a no-call involving UMBC's Kevin Bellinger and the Tigers' Jason Crump.
Truax thought Bellinger had elbowed Crump while getting into position for a layup, and Truax's emotions boiled over as the teams were leaving the floor.
"I felt very strongly about some plays that happened in front of our bench," Truax said. "Bush is bush. That's a perfect name for him. He was either cheating or he's inept, and I hope he was cheating, because nobody should be that incompetent."
Artie Walker led UMBC with 14 points.