Towson's Mike Jaskulski should be feeling the same pain as the other Division I men's basketball coaches in the area, but he's the only one not making a run on Excedrin.
Despite last night's 60-58 loss to conference-foe Hofstra, Jaskulski has the Tigers holding a 10-10 overall record, including 6-6 in the America East.
"Everyone pretty much understands that these things run in cycles," he said. "There are so many dynamics involved. Sometimes it's a player added; sometimes it's a player subtracted."
The dynamics were getting the best of Jaskulski in the first two seasons after he left an assistant's position to take over for Terry Truax in 1997. There was the can't-miss small forward whose foot acted up on him. There was the game the Tigers led by 16 with five minutes to go, only to lose after a brawl that got the starting power forward suspended for the rest of the season. Not to mention the point guard and defensive ace who couldn't stay eligible.
All told, Towson won 14 games over the previous two seasons, making this one a pleasant surprise for the third-year coach. He attributes the team's success to luck and an ability to avoid the problems some of the other state's teams have encountered: the defections of UMBC, the dismissals and injuries of Loyola, and the youthful stumblings of Morgan State.
But those aren't the only reasons: the Tigers have been just as snake-bitten as in the past, maybe more so:
In August, spark-plug shooting guard Peter Mauro became academically ineligible. About the same time, small forward Guy Zenou -- in his native Israel for the summer -- decided to stay home.
With Torin Ragin's foot problems already clouding the starting lineup, Josh Davalli went down with a knee injury before practice was to begin. He missed the first month of the season.
For the second time in little more than a year, the team's senior point guard and best defensive player, Marlin Wise, became academically ineligible 10 games into the season, ending his career.
While all of that was negative, the team has produced positive results, winning five of six games at one point. In a switch, three games is the longest losing streak the team has had this season.
"We have a core group of leaders who maturely respond to the bumps in the road," Jaskulski said. "We only staggered one time, and that was after the Drexel loss in overtime."
The team's senior guard, Damon Cason, said the Jan. 8 loss to the Dragons felt like a season-ending event. Towson had lost the past dozen games in the series, was facing a vulnerable team without its star player, and had clawed back from a 20-point deficit to take a late lead, only to lose.
Any grit that the Tigers had shown during the season dissolved when the team was blown out by Hofstra two days later.
"Coach [Jaskulski] stressed that you have to compete and beat the top teams, so that kind of hurt us, that we went to the buzzer and lost in overtime," Cason said. "Then against Hofstra, it was like we gave up. Coach stressed that we had to go back to playing defense. We kind of picked it up from that point on."
Part of the reason is that players such as Cason and seniors Torin Ragin and Raul de Pablo have seen the last two Towson teams jolted senseless by the slightest setback and are determined not to let it happen again.
Another factor working in the Tigers' favor is a depth lacking elsewhere in a town where some teams find themselves relying on six players in some games and others scrape to get eight in the rotation. Towson has 10 regulars and -- with Shaun Holtz's emergence accompanying Brian Barber -- more than one go-to guy.
"Our record speaks louder than going out and playing hard," Cason said. "We have a lot of depth, and we believe in each other."
After a slow start to the new year, the Johns Hopkins women's basketball team has won eight of its last nine heading into tomorrow's road trip to Muhlenberg. Marjahna Segers became the second JHU player to grab 1,000 rebounds in her career on Wednesday at Gettysburg. For the second year in a row, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Coach of the Year for women's basketball might be a rookie coach. In 1999, it was former Coppin State coach Jennie Hall. This season, Gerard Garlic has led Morgan State to a 7-3 record and fourth-place standing. Goucher's Darrien Lee was named player of the week in the Capital Athletic Conference after a 16-point, 12-rebound effort in a win over Gallaudet. The 9-9 Gophers play host to seventh-ranked Catholic tonight. In other Goucher news, the school's 16th and 17th varsity sports -- men's and women's track -- debuted at the Dickinson Invitational last weekend. Salisbury State, winners of three NCAA Division III men's lacrosse championships over the past six years, is picked to win again in preseason polls. Eight Sea Gulls, including seniors Joe High and Chris Turner, are consensus preseason All-America selections. The women's team is ranked 11th in Women's Lacrosse Yearbook and 12th in Inside Lacrosse magazine, led by preseason All-America Jen Mezzadra.
Pub Date: 2/05/00