There have been moments this year during Towson men's basketball games that - if observed independently - would make you believe new coach Pat Kennedy has already made a major impact on the Tigers.
Sometimes these moments come in the form of a crisp outlet pass, and when a player goes crashing into the scorer's table to save a loose ball.
But for now, they are only moments. Towson tried, but wasn't able to string enough of them together last night as the Tigers dropped their fifth straight game, losing at home to American, 75-64.
"We're kind of like a train that's missing some of its spark plugs," said Kennedy. "We keep chugging and chugging and chugging along. But for our team to have a chance, we can't make many mistakes. Some teams that have more talented players or more experienced players, they can make up for that, but we're just not there yet."
In some respects, it was a valiant effort by the Tigers (2-6), a team that starts three sophomores and doesn't have a player in its main rotation taller than 6 feet 8. American (4-2) was coming off an impressive victory over Vermont and it was hard to imagine the Tigers slowing down Eagles guard Andre Ingram, the Patriot League's preseason Player of the Year who was averaging 20.2 points.
Surprisingly, Ingram had little success against the Tigers, shooting just 3-for-12 and scoring only nine points, but teammates Jason Thomas and Patrick Okpwae more than made up for it. Thomas scored a career-high 26 points (to go with 12 rebounds) and Okpwae added a career-high 16, and each player missed only one of the nine shots he took.
"The guys we wanted to stop, we stopped," Kennedy said. "The other two guys ended up getting 42 points against us, which killed us."
Even though Towson shot just 40 percent on the night, most of its problems came on defense. American hit eight of 14 three-pointers, and in the second half, the Eagles shot 65 percent (15-for-23) from the field.
"At times, I thought we played exceptionally well," said American coach Jeff Jones. "Other times, I thought Towson took the fight to us. ... I thought we had a chance to really put the game away, but you've got to give Towson credit, they rallied and scrapped."
The Tigers trailed just 32-24 at halftime, and hung around after intermission thanks to 20 points and nine rebounds from Lawrence Hamm. But nearly all of Towson's scoring chances were coming from the perimeter, and eventually the lack of easy baskets caught up with them. Leading 47-41 with 13:44 remaining, American went on a 12-0 run.
"I'm really pleased with our effort," Kennedy said. "Our effort has not been a problem."
AMERICAN - Okpwae 8-9 0-0 16, Cresnick 2-4 2-2 7, Thomas 8-9 5-5 26, Ingram 3-12 2-2 9, Lekavicius 3-7 2-3 9, Billbe 0-1 0-0 0, Graham 1-3 0-0 2, Petrauskas 2-3 0-0 4, Eitutavicius 1-2 0-0 2, Lay 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-50 11-12 75. TOWSON - Hamm 8-15 1-1 20, Tubbs 4-9 1-2 10, Placae 0-2 0-0 0, Fletcher 2-5 0-0 5, Green 3-12 0-1 8, Jackson 2-8 3-5 8, Dixon 2-2 0-0 4, Pease 3-6 0-0 9, McCartney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 5-9 64. Halftime-American, 32-24. 3-Point goals-American 8-14 (Cresnick 1-3, Thomas 5-5, Ingram 1-4, Lekavisius 1-2). Towson 11-29 (Hamm 3-5, Tubbs 1-3, Fletcher 1-2, Green 2-7, Jackson 1-5, Pease 3-6, McCartney 0-1). Rebounds-American 35 (Thomas 12), Towson 27 (Hamm 9). Assists-American 16 (Lekavicius 7), Towson 16 (Green 8). Total fouls-American 13, Towson 17. A-1,016.