When Towson coach Pat Kennedy first looked at the three-game stretch that began with Colonial Athletic Association co-leaders Northeastern and George Mason and wrapped up against pre-season favorite Virginia Commonwealth, he said he knew his team had its work cut out for it.
Last night at the Towson Center, Kennedy's worst-case scenario became a reality as the Tigers dropped their third straight, this one to the Rams, 78-71, before an announced 1,379.
"We knew we'd be tested right away at the very highest level of the conference," said Kennedy, who started forward Robert Nwankwo and brought freshman point guard Troy Franklin off the bench. "I still think not only can we compete against them, I think we'll compete against them better in February."
For that to be true, Towson (7-11, 2-4 CAA) will need to do a better job getting a handle on VCU guard Eric Maynor, who scored 27 points and had nine assists.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on [Maynor] early," Kennedy said. "But he's as good at penetrating any defense as any guy in our league. He really hurt us."
The Tigers also suffered from early foul trouble. Franklin was in foul trouble all night and was a nonfactor. Nwankwo, who had seven points in the first half, one short of his career high, picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and was forced to play tentatively from then on. He failed to score again and the Rams took advantage inside, with Larry Sanders (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Kirill Pishchalnikov (12 points, seven rebounds) doing most of the damage.
"Robert has had some really good minutes, but we have to get him to consistently keep those minutes," Kennedy added. "We don't have a real backup to him right now."
"We've played against the best and we know it," Kennedy said. "Now it's a question of how we lace up against the other folks."