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Early scoring lapse dooms Towson, 65-56; Hartford gets 20-4 lead, then holds off Tigers


You're in the midst of the biggest weekend of your season, with the chance to redeem a season that once seemed lost.

Not the time to play possum.

But that's what the Towson men's basketball team did in the first 12 minutes of its 65-56 loss to Hartford at the Towson Center last night.

"In the first half, with the lack of energy, we dug us a hole that we were incapable of coming back from," Towson coach Mike Jaskulski said of a 20-4 deficit. "There was so much at stake, I can't tell you how disappointed we are in our performance."

By beating Hartford (9-14, 7-8) and Vermont on Monday night, the Tigers (5-18, 4-11) could have played their way into fifth place in the America East. That would have meant avoiding a play-in game in the conference tournament in two weeks.

That could make the difference between playing rested on the second day of the conference tournament, or coming in ragged after playing a late game the evening before, as Towson did last season.

"This is a huge weekend because we could finish anywhere from ninth to fifth," Jaskulski said before the game. "With all that we've encountered, we still have an opportunity to put ourselves in a position to make some noise in the tournament."

As it was, Towson made charges early and in the second half, as a pair of free throws by Alphonso Hawes closed Hartford's once 16-point lead to 58-54 with 52.2 seconds left.

But guards Justin Bailey (17 points) and Darrick Jackson (11 points) were too much as the Hawks completed their sweep of the Tigers; Hartford beat Towson, 60-57, on Jan. 14.

Towson feared the quickness of Jackson and Bailey, the league's second leading scorer at 20.1 points per game. It also feared the Hawks' ability to score in transition.

Both fears were well-founded as 18 of Hartford's first 20 points were created off penetration from Jackson and Bailey, or transition opportunities fed by Towson's inefficiency on offense. The Tigers, who shot 26 percent in the first half, scored only twice in their first 14 possessions, the rest accounted for by six turnovers and 2-for-12 shooting from the field.

Todd Jones followed a Jaron Brown miss to give Hartford a 20-4 lead with 8: 33 left in the first half. Though Towson mounted an 8-0 run and trailed 27-17 at halftime, silver linings hid from this outing.

"I didn't think we could play any more poorly than we did last time at Hartford and we did," said Jaskulski, whose team was led by 14 points from Pete Mauro and 12 points from Brian Barber. "I thought that we would recognize what was at stake and that would generate a certain amount of excitement. I'm at a loss for words to explain it."

HARTFORD -- Sawicki 5-8 4-4 14, Smith 3-3 0-0 6, Eames 3-7 1-2 7, Jackson 2-9 5-8 11, Bailey 4-8 7-8 17, Storpirstis 1-5 0-0 3, King 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 1-2 3-4 5, Jones 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-44 20-26 65.

TOWSON -- Barber 6-9 0-0 12, Davalli 3-8 1-2 7, Hawes 2-5 4-5 8, Mauro 5-12 0-0 14, Wise 1-3 0-0 2, de Pablo 0-3 2-2 2, Cason 2-3 0-0 5, Holtz 0-3 0-0 0, Zenou 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 22-52 7-9 56.

Halftime--Hartford, 27-17. Three-point goals--H 5-12 (Bailey 2-2, Jackson 2-6, Storpirstis 1-4); T 5-19 (Mauro 4-9, Cason 1-2, Wise 0-1, de Pablo 0-3, Davalli 0-4). Rebounds--H 26 (Bailey 7); T 33 (Hawes 9). Assists--H 12 (Jackson 5); T 14 (Wise 4). Fouled out--Eames. Total fouls--H 16, T 19. A--1,009.

Pub Date: 2/14/99

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