As the only senior on Towson University's roster, Jamaal Gilchrist admitted he was particularly tight in the early moments of last night's game against James Madison, his last at home.
After missing six of his first seven shots, however, his three-point buzzer-beater at the end of the first half helped get both him and the Tigers on track, and Towson rolled the rest of the way, recording a 74-54 win that broke an 11-game losing streak and kept it out of last place heading into this week's Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Gilchrist finished with a game-high 24 points and led an intense, man-to-man defense that held the Dukes to 4-for-27 shooting (15 percent) in the second half.
"It's a big win," said Gilchrist. "We've struggled lately. We've been playing good basketball, but just haven't been able to finish games. This was a big win for us. Now we have confidence going into the tournament, and we believe we can play with anybody in this league."
With the win, Towson (7-20, 4-14) locked up the No. 9 seed in the tournament, which will be held in Richmond, Va. The Tigers will open against No. 8 seed William and Mary Friday at 5:30.
Yesterday's result marked the Tigers' first win in the month of February since 2002.
To Gilchrist, a transfer from Texas A&M; who is in his second season with Towson, the defining moment of the game came at the end of the first half.
After James Madison took the lead with a 15-0 run, Gilchrist's three-pointer from the top of the key gave the Tigers a badly needed spark heading into halftime.
"I was struggling at first," said Gilchrist. "I'm the kind of player that all I need is a foul shot or basket to get me going. I think that shot at the end of the half kind of got me going."
Trailing by four at halftime, Towson gained control of the game with its defense, holding the Dukes scoreless for the first 7:45 of the second half and without a field goal for the first 9:32. James Madison (7-20, 3-15) began the half 1-for-18 from the field.
"I thought we did a better job of rotating to the help line, and we took away some of their drives," said Tigers coach Michael Hunt.
Ray Barbosa, a 6-foot-2 freshman, finished with 22 points for James Madison, but had only three after halftime.
Meanwhile, Gilchrist's offense helped the Tigers pull away. With his team struggling to take advantage, the senior sank a three-pointer to put Towson up 43-36, then hit two more threes over the next five minutes to extend the lead to 18.
JAMES MADISON - Freeman 4-11 1-2 10, Broyles 2-11 4-5 8, Cathlin, 0-4 2-4 2, Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Barbosa 8-16 2-3 22, Cooper 0-6 2-2 2, Clarke 0-4 1-2 1, Elgibali 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 3-5 0-2 7. Totals 18-60 12-20 54. TOWSON - Hamm 5-10 3-4 13, Pease 2-4 4-5 9, Dixon 3-4 0-1 6, Green 0-4 4-6 4, Gilchrist 6-17 7-8 24, Jackson 1-4 1-2 4, Petkunas 3-3 1-2 10, Tubbs 0-1 0-0 0, Goode 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 21-49 22-30 74. Half: James Madison, 36-32. 3-point goals - JM 6-21 (Freeman 1-4, Broyles 0-3, Barbosa 4-9, Cooper 0-1, Clarke 0-1, Johnson 1-3), T 10-20 (Pease 1-1, Green 0-1, Gilchrist 5-13, Jackson 1-2, Petkunas 3-3). Fouled out - Broyles, Petkunas. Rebounds - JM 29 (Johnson 7), T 44 (Hamm 9). Assists - JM 10 (Barbosa, 4), T 17 (Green 6). A - 1,712.