There were seven seconds left when Brian Barber fouled Delaware's Austen Rowland, ending any hopes Towson University had of pulling off a major America East Conference basketball upset victory last night before a roaring crowd of 2,598 at the Towson Center.
Barber had played his heart out and had been on the verge of a dreamlike evening when Towson built an 11-point lead with 4: 24 remaining. All the high hopes Barber and his teammates had talked about for three years seemed to be within reach against a Delaware team that is a symbol of America East success.
But in seven seconds, Barber and Towson would lose an 80-74 decision to the Blue Hens, despite the junior forward's eight rebounds and game-high 27 points.
"It was so frustrating," said Barber. "We're right there and just can't break through. I take every loss the same way. This one was really tough, but we have to keep plugging away."
Last night, the Tigers (11-13, 7-9) could not handle a ferocious full-court press in the last three minutes by a Delaware team that sensed the lack of depth in the Towson backcourt and used four guards to harass senior Damon Cason as he tried to get the ball up court.
The Delaware press fired a 20-3 game-closing run by the visitors. It was obvious the one missing ingredient for Towson down the stretch was senior point guard Marlin Wise, who flunked out of school in early January.
"I don't want to talk about Marlin," said Towson coach Mike Jaskulski. "We have a good team here that is capable of beating anyone in the league and we just can't get over the hump. I think the difference tonight was those seven seniors Delaware [20-6, 12-4] trotted out the other night on seniors' night. They know how to win games like this."
The height of Towson's frustration came with 3: 08 left when Delaware turned back-to-back turnovers into five points in nine seconds to cut the lead to 72-70. After that, the Blue Hens did nearly everything right in the final two minutes even though they had two starters and a key reserve on the bench with five fouls.
Starters 7-foot-1 Ndongo Ndiaye and Kestutis Marciulionis and key reserve Madou Diouf had fouled out for Delaware but the intense pressure bailed the Blue Hens out. Marciulionis scored 16 points to lead the winners and Mike Pegues and John Gordon combined for 30 points.
Another standout for the Blue Hens was junior guard Greg Miller, brother of Maryland starter Danny Miller. Greg stole an inbounds pass with 1: 20 left and hit four free throws after that.
"This was a great win for us," said Delaware coach Mike Brey. "I've been telling everybody Towson is a much better team than last year and Barber really killed us tonight. But our seniors saved us."
Jaskulski said: "We played 37 minutes of great basketball and then just couldn't handle their pressure."
DELAWARE -- Pegues 5-10 5-5 15, Ndiaye 2-2 2-4 6, Marciulionis 3-10 9-9 16, Gordon 6-11 0-0 15, Wells 2-5 3-4 8, Diouf 1-2 1-2 3, Miller 1-3 6-6 9, Rowland 3-4 1-2 8. Totals 23-47 27-32 80.
TOWSON -- Ragin 0-4 4-4 4, Davalli 1-5 1-2 3, Barber 11-14 5-5 27, Shin 1-7 0-1 2, Cason 4-6 2-2 14, dePablo 1-6 0-0 3, Allen 1-1 2-2 4, Holtz 5-11 2-5 13, Augustus 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 26-56 16-21 74.
Half--Delaware, 41-39. 3-point goals--D 7-21 (Gordon 3-8, Marciulionis 1-6, Wells 1-2, Miller 1-3, Rowland 1-2); T 6-14 (Cason 4-5, dePablo 1-6, Holtz 1-2, Davalli 0-1). Fouled out--Ndiaye, Marciulionis, Diouf, Davall. Rebounds--D 23 (Pegues 7); T 35 (Barber 8). Assists--D 14 (Diouf 4); T 17 (Cason 9). Total fouls--D 22, T 24. Technicals--Delaware, bench. A--2,598.