Towson State's men's basketball team typically has been defined by its backcourt. This year, with top-scoring senior guard Scooter Alexander redshirting, the Tigers are relying heavily on junior guard Ralph Blalock, who has responded.
Towson State is off to a 3-3 start. Two of those victories resulted from buzzer-beating three-point shots by Blalock, who leads the Tigers with a 17.8-point scoring average.
But the Tigers are developing a more interesting look these days, mainly because their young frontcourt -- usually the team's Achilles' heel -- is emerging.
Junior forward Stevie Thomas (Walbrook) has given Towson State outstanding production in 28 minutes a game. Thomas, 6 feet 7, is averaging 12.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, has already blocked 11 shots, and scored in double figures four times.
Thomas has gotten impressive help from 6-8 center Ryan Lexer. He has started every game and has contributed 6.3 points and five rebounds a game, after going scoreless in his collegiate debut vs. Old Dominion.
Then there's sophomore Florian Schneider, a 6-5 forward whose 40 percent three-point shooting has taken some of the pressure off Blalock. Another 6-5 forward, freshman Ralph Biggs, a terrific leaper, has been excellent coming off the bench, averaging six points and 3.3 rebounds in 14 minutes. And look for 6-9 freshman Gary Durrant to help out more on the boards.
As Towson State prepares for its Big South schedule with games against Delaware on Saturday and Howard in three weeks, the Tigers' backcourt is also going through more changes. The two-year battle between point guards Michael Keyes and Quinton Moody appears to be over. Keyes (6.3 ppg, 3 apg) got his first career start in Monday's 120-73 loss at Maryland and will probably continue to start.
Who needs experience, anyway? Western Maryland's women's basketball team is doing just fine without it. The Green Terror has one senior, five sophomores and four freshmen, yet that inexperience has not prevented it from sprinting to a 6-1 start, good for first place in the West Division of the Centennial Conference.
Western Maryland has won six straight, mainly because it is shooting well (44.6 percent) and controlling the boards. It has out-rebounded opponents by an average of 10 per game, and has yet to be beaten in that category.
Forward Denise Spangler (13.1 ppg, 11 rpg), the Green Terror's senior, is the team's anchor. Sophomore shooting guard Sandi DeJager, the reigning conference Player of the Week, leads the team in scoring with a 15.1-point average on 47 percent shooting.
UMBC sweeps W. Virginia
The UMBC swimming team cleared a major hurdle on Saturday when the men and women each beat West Virginia in the Retrievers' biggest dual meet of the season.
Sophomore Chad Cradock won two individual events, and junior David Miller (Centennial) slashed seven seconds off his 1,000-meter freestyle record with a winning 9:20.47 performance, as UMBC's men edged the Mountaineers, 124-119.
On the women's side, the Retrievers won, 124-117. Junior diver Courtney Stewart (Centennial) took the one-meter board competition, and Ingrid Kilpe (Centennial) snapped a brief slump by winning two events.
Johns Hopkins freshman swimmer Matt Johnson is off to a pretty good start. At the Division III Holiday Classic earlier this month, Johnson shattered the school's 21-year-old record in the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 50.15. That's nearly a full second faster than the old record of 51.10 set by Bill Milne in 1973.
Milne was a four-time NCAA champion in the event and was recently inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. Johnson not only met qualifying standards for the 1995 NCAA Championships, but he just missed the time that won last year's NCAA title (50.14). He also qualified for the NCAAs in the 200 butterfly (1:53.47) and 50 freestyle (21.25).
Junior Ann Girvin set a Hopkins record in the 100 women's butterfly (57.7), to qualify for the NCAAs.
Frostburg State senior nose guard Joe Holland (Poly) has been named to the Kodak Coaches All-America team. . . . Four players from Loyola's men's soccer team have been named to the All-South Region soccer team: senior goalkeeper Zach Thornton, senior forward Bill Wnek, junior midfielder Marc Harrison and junior defender Dave Briles.