Darius Banks wished he had a little more time. The Towson men’s basketball team was glad he didn’t.
Banks, a junior shooting guard for James Madison, exploded for 22 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, but the host Tigers were able to outlast the outburst and secure a 69-61 win before an announced 1,320 at SECU Arena in Towson Saturday afternoon.
Senior shooting guard Brian Fobbs (21 points and five rebounds) led a trio of players who scored at least 15 points for Towson, which collected its fourth straight victory. At 10-9 overall and 4-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Tigers are above .500 in the conference for the first time since beginning last season 1-0 after a 77-60 win at Elon on Dec. 28, 2018.
Sophomore shooting guard Allen Betrand chipped in 16 points and four rebounds, and redshirt senior center Nakiye Sanders had 15 points and seven rebounds. But they and Fobbs were overshadowed by Banks, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound wing player who converted eight of his 11 shots (including 5 of 6 from behind the 3-point arc), collected five of eight rebounds, and made three of four steals in the second half.
“I just felt like I had to help my team come back somehow,” said Banks, who scored 14 consecutive points and 17 of the Dukes’ 18 points at one point in the second half. “… I think that started with me on defense, getting my steals. I think I had back-to-back steals. I locked my defense up, got rebounds, and did the things that I can do for my team to try to get us back in the game.”
Banks’ performance was somewhat surprising considering he had averaged only 10.5 points in six previous league games. But Betrand, who is generally acknowledged as Towson’s best defender, credited Banks with carrying his team’s offense.
“He can get hot anytime,” Betrand said. “This year, he’s struggling, but he was hooping. We’ve got to contain him, control his drives, and keep him in front.”
Both sides had a difficult time finding baskets in the first half, combining for 45 missed shots, including 18 unsuccessful attempts from 3-point range. Still, the Tigers took a 22-18 lead into halftime, giving up their fewest points to a Division I opponent in the opening period.
But Towson began the second half with a 14-2 spurt in the first 3:37. And after another 8-3 run, the team owned a commanding 44-23 advantage with 14:13 remaining for a lead of 20 points or more for the third consecutive game.
Sanders fueled that burst with nine points, and Fobbs contributed six.
Coach Pat Skerry said Sanders’ effectiveness in the low post opened chances for his teammates on the perimeter.
“We want to get him the ball,” Skerry said. “He scores, he makes good decisions, he’s tough. He is the heartbeat of the team. So when he’s scoring inside, I’ve got these two wings [in Fobbs and Betrand] that guard, rebound, pass, and score. Then we’ve got a really good inside-outside balance.”
James Madison trimmed the deficit to five points at 57-52 with 1:33 remaining, but then resorted to fouling the Tigers to try to get the ball back without expending much time. Towson responded by sinking all 12 free throws, including six from Fobbs and four from Betrand.
“Very critical because when they get on a run, it was hard to make them miss,” Fobbs said of the foul shots. “So making those key free throws are what [helped] us.”
Skerry blamed himself for the Dukes’ comeback, saying, “I might have messed up some of our guys’ rhythm because usually we sub pretty quick. But then I was like, ‘We kept going,’ and I thought we could go a little bit long. So I might have messed up our rhythm. That’s on me.”
Banks was the only player in double figures in scoring for James Madison, which absorbed its fourth straight setback to drop to 8-10 overall and 1-6 in the conference. Coach Louis Rowe took little comfort in the team’s late rally that fell short and instead pointed to the Tigers’ run to open the second half as the stretch that proved crucial in determining the outcome.
“Their guys made enough plays to win the game, and they came out in the first four minutes of the second half kind of established,” he said. “And when you’re fighting uphill like that on the road, with the way they played at home and once they made their run, I just told our guys, ‘You better just fight because that’s what they’ve been doing to people here the last couple games — hitting the gas and it’s over.’ You want to say we fought and cut it to five, but they did what it took to build that lead and then they also did what it took to close it.”
Towson 69, James Madison 61
JAMES MADISON — Lewis 2-11 1-2 7, Banks 10-19 1-1 27, Parker 2-5 0-0 5, Wooden 2-9 1-2 5, Jacobs 0-4 0-0 0, Wilson 3-11 0-2 6, Christmas 2-8 2-2 6, Harvey 1-2 3-5 5, Pinkard 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 22-70 8-14 61.
TOWSON — Fobbs 7-15 6-6 21, Betrand 5-11 5-5 16, Sanders 5-7 5-5 15, Gray 1-4 2-3 4, Gibson 1-5 0-0 2, Dottin 1-4 2-2 4, Tunstall 2-4 0-0 4, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Timberlake 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 23-54 20-21 69.
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Halftime—Towson 22-18. 3-Point Goals—James Madison 9-30 (Banks 6-9, Lewis 2-8, Parker 1-4, Jacobs 0-1, Christmas 0-3, Wooden 0-5), Towson 3-18 (Betrand 1-4, Timberlake 1-4, Fobbs 1-6, Gibson 0-1, Tunstall 0-1, Gray 0-2). Rebounds—James Madison 38 (Wilson 10), Towson 38 (Gray 8). Assists—James Madison 13 (Lewis 7), Towson 11 (Gibson 4). Total Fouls—James Madison 18, Towson 14. A—1,320 (5,250).