With his team facing four Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball games in eight days — including one on Monday against Hofstra — Towson coach Pat Skerry would usually give the players off on Sunday.
But after watching the Tigers sleepwalk their way through a 61-45 setback to visiting Northeastern before an announced 1,102 at SECU Arena in Towson on Saturday, Skerry had no choice but to inform the players that they would indeed practice on their off day.
“Normally, I’d go into tomorrow with the four games in eight days and be worried about contact,” he said, referring to upcoming games at the College of Charleston on Thursday and UNC Wilmington on Saturday. “But we clearly have to practice tomorrow. I don’t know any other way to get better with things other than practicing. I believe we’re better than what we showed on offense, but we certainly didn’t show that today.”
Those needing a reminder of winter during Saturday’s near-balmy conditions simply could have watched Towson’s frigid shooting display against the Huskies.
Sophomore guard Allen Betrand led the Tigers (6-7, 0-1 CAA) with 16 points, but had to hoist a team-high 15 shots, missing eight and all four from 3-point range. His performance was indicative of an offense that converted just 34.0% of its overall attempts (17-of-50) and only 9.0% of its shots from behind the 3-point line (1-of-11).
“It’s a surprise,” Skerry said. “We were just so bad on offense. We turned it over. We missed layups. It was definitely our worst performance of the season unfortunately in a big game. It’s even more numbing because our actual defensive numbers were pretty good against a good shooting team. We’ve got to watch the film. I’m trying to reserve judgment. We’re not a good team when the ball doesn’t move. We just don’t have enough one-on-one play to make things happen. I thought we got frustrated, and the ball stopped, and it’s reflected in our shooting.”
The turning point for the Tigers was a 7:15 stretch in which they missed as many shots (six) as they committed turnovers (six). After freshman guard Jason Gibson’s layup off an assist from sophomore point guard Jakigh Dottin with 10:00 left in the first half, the offense did not score a point until senior shooting guard Brian Fobbs nailed a 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining.
During that span, Northeastern scored 11 unanswered points for a 27-15 advantage that it would not relinquish.
Towson has endured worse shooting stretches, including a 24.5% output in a 55-38 loss at Vermont on Dec. 7 and a 30.5% total in a 73-51 setback against Xavier on Nov. 21. But Saturday’s showing felt more damaging because it was the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both programs, and the Huskies (7-6, 1-0) entered the game as the league’s reigning tournament champions.
Northeastern pounced on the Tigers’ inability to protect the ball, converting 15 turnovers into 18 points. Towson gave the ball away 11 times alone in the first half.
Fobbs was limited to nine points — more than seven points below his season average — and was tied with Betrand and redshirt junior forward Juwan Gray for the team-high in turnovers with three each. With the game out of reach, Fobbs spent about five minutes of the second half on the bench next to Skerry, according to the coach.
“Nothing will change unless we do,” Skerry said. “… Fobbs is a very good player, but when the ball sticks to his hands, good things don’t happen after that. In the first half, we were giving up an alarming amount of points off of turnovers. Maybe it means lineup changes.”
Skerry also singled out redshirt senior forward Nakiye Sanders, who was held without a point for the first time this season after missing six shots and two free throws. Skerry said the team can’t succeed without improved showings from Fobbs, Sanders and redshirt senior forward Dennis Tunstall (two points, four rebounds and two blocks).
“Our seniors played really bad today,” he said. “There’s no other way to say that. If we do that, we’re probably not going to be very good.”
The Huskies were powered by freshman guard Tyson Walker (17 points, five rebounds and four assists), senior guard Jordan Roland (14 points, six rebounds and two steals) and redshirt junior forward Maxime Boursiquot (12 points and five rebounds).
Skerry didn’t mince any words about the significance of Monday’s game against Hofstra (9-4), which opened its CAA schedule at James Madison (7-4) on Saturday.
“It’s a long conference season, but I’m going to tell you that Monday now is a must-win game,” he said. “You can term it pressure or whatever you want, but we’ve got to figure out how to respond and play better on Monday.”