Upset good as it gets for Towson

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Towson State guard Ralph Blalock was sitting in a conference room yesterday when he heard a thud on the window, once, twice, three times.

It was a bird, of all things, trying to break through the glass.

"A Louisville Cardinal," Blalock said, smiling. "A little late."

On the day after, Blalock was still glowing.

Towson State 81, Louisville 69.

Blalock walked into the hallway and a coach from another sport congratulated him.

"You'll remember last night for the rest of your life," the coach said.

Blalock will; they all will. The Sagarin college-basketball ratings had Louisville ranked 33rd out of the 302 Division I schools, and Towson 201st.

What would be a comparable upset?

Try Texas Pan-American over Maryland.

In a normal season, Towson would be trumpeting its victories over West Virginia and Louisville, pointing toward the Big South tournament, dreaming of a respectable seed in the NCAAs.

This isn't a normal season.

The Tigers (8-9) can win the rest of their games, and they still won't make the NCAAs.

The Big South lost its automatic bid for this season when Campbell departed, leaving the conference short of six teams with at least five years of continuous league membership.

How is it that one school can put nine others in such an unfortunate position? That's a question best put to the rocket scientists running the NCAA.

Mercifully, Towson will escape this ridiculous conference next season when it joins the North Atlantic, its third league in five years.

Poor UMBC is committed to the Big Louse through 1995-96. It gets

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to compete for an automatic bid next season without Towson as an obstacle, but would rather play in Japan, if possible.

Towson and UMBC had no choice but to join the Big South after the breakup of the East Coast Conference. Now, all Towson can do is wait for 1995-96, while UMBC prays for the North Atlantic to expand again.

Coach Terry Truax called the victory over Louisville the biggest in his 12 years at Towson, yet its true significance is in the promise it offers for next season, when the Tigers resume playing for real.

Check that.

L The players obviously are taking this season seriously, too.

"I've heard people allude to the fact that your team knows there's no postseason tournament, and therefore they don't have motivation," Truax said. "I don't necessarily find that to be true. The kids are competitors. They want to win, regardless of what the reward is."

Still, guard Scooter Alexander knew this would be an somewhat empty season -- that's why he decided to redshirt rather than waste his final year of eligibility. His leadership is sorely missed. But everyone knows he'll be back in '95-96.

Truax also will add forward Matt Dellinger, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound transfer from Cleveland State. He has two scholarships to offer, preferably to big men. The only player he'll lose is center Jason Crump.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Quintin Moody, the junior point guard from Cardinal Gibbons. "I think Towson basketball will be a lot more interesting."

How can it not be? The North Atlantic includes Delaware and Drexel and several large state schools in New England. It's a major improvement over Liberty, Radford, Winthrop and whoever else is in the Big South.

The Towson Center won't be packed every night, but the crowds should be larger. For the players, Monday was a revelation. The attendance was 4,281. The atmosphere was reminiscent of when the ECC tournament was played at Towson.

"When we came out for warm-ups, it was so surprising to see smany people," Moody said. "Most of the time we come out and there are maybe 45 or 50 people scattered around. But this was a big game. Everyone got there real early."

And then stormed the court at the end.

"I stuck around a little bit, but people were falling down, getting trampled," Blalock said. "I just got out of there."

Blalock said the victory was the highlight of his career, and never mind that Louisville (12-8) started two freshmen and two sophomores, and isn't as good as the edition that Maryland upset in College Park two years ago.

The Cardinals did beat No. 6 Kentucky and No. 21 Georgia Tech, and they're still coached by Hall of Famer Denny Crum. How can Towson defeat such a team and be 2-6 in the Big South? The question drives Truax and his players crazy, when a 20-win season might have resulted in an NIT bid.

Everyone should relax -- the Tigers are young, and learning. The absence of Alexander and an early injury to Crump created playing time for three freshmen (Ralph Biggs, Ryan Lexer and Gary Durrant). Sophomore DeRon Robinson was a hero Monday night.

Bizarre as this season has been, Towson has shown resilience, three times winning at the buzzer after geting routed in its previous game. The experience -- all of it -- will prove useful next season, in the new conference, with the NCAA bid at stake.

You beat Louisville, you celebrate.

This one, the NCAA can't take away.

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