The good news was that the largest crowd of the season turned out for a pivotal Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball matchup between William & Mary and host Towson, two of the top four teams in the league’s standings.
The bad news was that many of the announced 2,613 in attendance left SECU Arena unhappy as the Tigers stumbled in a 61-51 loss to the Tribe on Thursday night.
Towson fell to 16-12 overall and 9-6 in the conference and watched its win streak end at three games. The setback drops the team from a tie with Delaware (20-8, 10-5) for third place in the league into fifth behind Hofstra (21-7, 12-3), William & Mary (19-10, 11-5), the Blue Hens and the College of Charleston (15-12, 9-6).
The Tigers did themselves no favors with their ice-cold shooting display. They made only 17 of their 62 shots for a .274 shooting percentage that ranks as their worst against a CAA opponent and second lowest of the season.
“I thought we played hard, but it’s obviously hard to win a ball game against a good team when you’re shooting the ball that poorly from the field,” coach Pat Skerry said. “I obviously didn’t get the message across during the week that they were going to be loaded in the lane and that we were going to need to hit rolls, hit the corners, throw it to the post, and play off that. We had one little flurry, but other than that… We obviously shot the ball at a really poor percentage.”
Senior shooting guard Brian Fobbs was the only Towson player to hit double digits in points, and he became the 27th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points with 1,004. But he took a game-high 16 attempts to compile 15 points to go along with seven rebounds and four turnovers.
Fobbs, who scored 17 points in the Tigers’ 70-58 win against William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on Jan 25, had been complemented in that first meeting by freshman point guard Jason Gibson’s career-best 21 points and sophomore shooting guard Allen Betrand’s 16 points. But Betrand was limited to nine points on 3-for-13 shooting (including 1-for-3 from 3-point range), and Gibson was held to five points on 1-for-7 shooting (0-for-4 behind the arc).
Tribe coach Dane Fischer said the defensive plan was to blanket Fobbs and Betrand, especially on pick-and-rolls that they use to get free for mid- and long-range jumpers.
“I thought we had a really good focus defensively to start the game and really maintained it,” he said. “We really wanted to crowd the floor on Fobbs and Betrand, especially having weak-side defenders so that they couldn’t roll their bigs. We needed to keep our ball-screen D with them a little bit longer than you do for some because those guys are really good. I thought we had a great focus level on that.”
Towson’s frontcourt of redshirt seniors Nakye Sanders and Dennis Tunstall and freshman Charles Thompson combined for 23 rebounds, but only 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Sanders and Tunstall were slowed by foul trouble with four fouls each, but Skerry said the rest of the players settled too quickly for shots from the perimeter.
“You can’t get jump shot-happy, which obviously we did,” he said. “It’s tough to lose a game when the defensive effort was pretty good, but 27 percent, that doesn’t sit on the page, that leaps off the page.”
The Tigers found themselves mired in several significant droughts throughout the game. They went scoreless over a four-minute stretch spanning the first and second halves, another 3:44 that William & Mary used to sprint to a 41-25 advantage, and then over a 5:36 spell late in the game after the team had narrowed the deficit to six at 49-43 with 7:48 remaining.
Junior guard Luke Loewe paced the Tribe with 15 points, and senior center Nathan Knight chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds to add to his NCAA Division I-leading 22nd double double of the season.
Towson slipped to 4-4 against league opponents at home, but are 5-2 against conference foes on the road. The slight oddity puzzled Skerry, whose team will welcome Elon to SECU Arena on Saturday before ending the regular season with games at Hofstra on Feb. 27 and Northeastern on March 1.
“We just haven’t consistently executed at home versus on the road at times,” he said. “We just haven’t for whatever reason. That falls on me. We had a couple wings that had really bad performances shooting the ball, and we didn’t have a lot of assists either. We just didn’t do enough. We’ve got to make better plays.”
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