Towson falls short in CAA upset bid

The Baltimore Sun

Richmond, Va. -- Towson held nothing back last night and still couldn't muster quite enough to surprise Old Dominion in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.

A combination of factors meshed to derail the Tigers' upset bid against the No. 2 seed, a team probably destined for the NCAA field, as Old Dominion squeezed out a 58-55 victory in the quarterfinals at the Richmond Coliseum.

Freshmen Rodney Spruill's bid to force overtime bounded off the front of the rim just before time expired, officially ending the college career of senior guard Gary Neal, who broke Kurk Lee's single-season school record by finishing with 815 points after scoring a team-high 22 in his finale.

Neal (Calvert Hall) became only the second player in CAA history to eclipse 800 points. The other was Navy's David Robinson, who rolled up a record 903 points in 1986-87.

"I didn't really have any knowledge about that. I was just thinking about the game," Neal said. "But if I spend 17 years in the league [NBA, like Robinson], it would be really good."

It was a topsy-turvy game. The Monarchs seized an 8-0 lead in the first two minutes, but the Tigers clamped down on defense thereafter. Over a stretch of nearly 15 minutes, Towson (15-17) forced Old Dominion (24-7) out of what it wanted to do on attack and allowed a mere two field goals. That enabled the Tigers to compile a 30-17 lead, their largest of the game.

Then, Neal and Tigers point guard C.C. Williams were each charged with a third personal foul, both on charging calls, in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the first half. The Monarchs seized the opportunity to score the final eight points of the period, six on three-pointers by Brian Henderson, to narrow the deficit to five.

With foul trouble plaguing Towson, the Monarchs - confronted with a zone defense played by the Tigers out of necessity - took command of the game with Richmond native Henderson (game-high 24 points) doing most of the damage. Six minutes into the second half, Old Dominion had shot ahead, 40-33, and Tigers coach Pat Kennedy had to abandon the zone.

But Towson never folded. It regained the lead once, at 45-44, on a three-pointer by Rocky Coleman, and tied it at 50 on a conventional three-point play by Neal.

The Monarchs regained the momentum and shot ahead 58-52 on a steal and conversion by Henderson before Neal drilled a trey from the corner. Following an Old Dominion turnover, Brandon Johnson covered Neal effectively in the final seconds and Spruill was obliged to take the final shot with the clock expiring.

Old Dominion was the 2005 CAA champ, the second straight recent titlist Towson has played. This was only the Tigers' second appearance in the quarterfinals.

TOWSON-Breaux 1-2 2-2 4, Abraham 4-5 0-3 8, Pease 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 2-3 1-1 5, Neal 8-20 3-4 22, Coleman 1-2 0-0 3, Spruill 5-11 2-3 13, Tubbs 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 8-13 55. OLD DOMINION-Dahi 4-10 2-2 10, Vasylius 1-4 10-10 12, Johnson 0-5 1-3 1, Williamson 0-5 0-0 0, Henderson 9-12 0-0 24, Lidonde 1-3 0-0 3, Lee 3-3 0-0 6, Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Adams 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-46 13-15 58. Half-Towson, 30-25. 3-point goals-Towson 5-12 (Neal 3-7, Coleman 1-1, Spruill 1-3, Abraham 0-1), Old Dominion 7-21 (Henderson 6-9, Lidonde 1-3, Vasylius 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Williamson 0-3, Dahi 0-4). Rebounds-Towson 27 (Abraham, Williams 5), ODU 28 (Dahi 8). Assists-Towson 13 (Spruill 6), ODU 11 (Williamson 4). Total fouls-Towson 19, ODU 18. A-N/A.

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